In what exposes the sheer hypocrisy of Uddhav Thackeray led Sena, the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, governed by Shiv Sena is all set to chop around 1000 trees for the construction of a memorial of the party founder, Balasaheb Thackeray, in Aurangabad’s Priyadarshini Park. The Park is a dense wood spread over 17 acres and is seen as the green lung of the city, situated in the middle of the town.
The Priyadarshini Park is used for walking, jogging and other leisure activities. It is also an important component of the ecosystem as it is home to 70 species of birds, 40 species of butterflies and various reptiles and mammals. “Tree saviour” Shiv Sena, which halted the construction of a metro depot in a nearly 25 acre land in Aarey requiring the felling of over 2200 trees, wants to fell 1000 trees in order to build a memorial of party founder, Balasaheb Thackeray.
This move is particularly hypocritical because the Maharashtra CM, Uddhav Thackeray’s first decision after coming into power was to halt the Aarey Metro car shed project, and he also announced that not a single leaf would be cut till the next decision. He also withdrew cases against the Aarey hooligans in a major boost to the politically motivated vigilantes who have been hell-bent on keeping the people of Mumbai devoid of the ambitious metro rail project.
The protests over the Aarey metro depot project has come to epitomise how development can become a casualty of a misinformation campaign masquerading as environmental activism. Despite a cost-benefit analysis revealing that the metro car shed project would do more good than harm to Mumbai as far as reducing emissions and environmental protection is concerned, fake environmentalists joined hands in their efforts to stall the project. The carbon-dioxide absorption capacity of this stretch is about 80-90 tonnes per year whereas the functional metro would prevent the emission of 2.25 lakh tonnes of the pollutants in a year, besides providing connectivity to the common people of the city who currently struggle with dangerously overcrowded local trains.
This futile and senseless activism also echoed with the Sena even as like Aaditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, and the second in command of the Shiv Sena at the moment, was also part of the campaign to oppose this project in an incredibly hypocritical and misleading behaviour. Even Shiv Sena corporator and Standing Committee Chairman, Yashwant Jadhav had petitioned the Bombay High Court for examination and quashing of the Tree Authority decision. The Bombay High Court had dismissed the petition describing it as “sheer voyeurism“, the court had also imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000.
The green activism that Shiv Sena had manifested with respect to the Aarey metro car shed project seems to have vanished when it comes to the memorial in Aurangabad. With the kind of enthusiasm with which Uddhav Thackeray had stalled the Aarey metro car shed project and the manner in which he was hailed by the fake environmentalists, had given the illusion as if a single tree won’t be felled throughout the tenure of the present NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena coalition government. All such hopes have however been dashed as the Shiv Sena-governed AMC is now adamant on chopping down a thousand trees for a memorial. It’s also a travesty that the metro project appears to mean less to the Shiv Sena led government than a memorial.
It is clear that the Shiv Sena and its leadership has no real love for trees, and stalling the Aarey metro car shed project was a manifestation of sheer political vindictiveness. Political vengeance is also the reason why the Shiv Sena considers Memorial and Aquarium to be more important than Metro and connectivity even in Mumbai, which tackles jam-packed locals and extreme congestion on roads on an everyday basis, in Mumbai.
The hypocrisy of the Shiv Sena having been exposed, the real question that arises here is if the liberals, celebrities and the green-activists will now come out opposing the memorial with the same intensity as the Aarey metro depot project? The metro car shed project carried a major net benefit when it comes to reducing emissions, felling trees for the memorial, on the other hand, the chopping down of a thousand trees for the memorial will lead to sheer environmental damage with no benefit to the public.