The apathy of the authorities, judiciary, influencers, corporates and ministries concerned towards the daylight murder of Mumbai city’s only forest in the “Aarey row” is perhaps summed up in influential actor Amitabh Bachchan’s recent tweet.
Otherwise recognised as a sensible and articulate personality, Bachchan had tweeted: “Friend of mine had a medical emergency, decided to take METRO instead of his car. Came back very impressed. Said was faster, convenient and most efficient. Solution for Pollution. Grow more trees. I did in my garden… have you.” (really, Mr Bachchan?!)
We don’t need to reiterate how grossly ignorant the last line is. Plants in a balcony garden don’t make a forest. Us humans need the trees in order to survive more than the trees need us (they don’t). If the forest land in Aarey were to be reclaimed, it will have dangerous repercussions, especially flooding of the international airport. The flood situation in suburbs would get worse. An official report by a technical committee comprising Director of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Dr Rakesh Kumar and professor Shyam Asolekar warns that if the Aarey is concretised, excess rainwater will run off into Mithi, leading to flooding of the international Mumbai airport.
The Aarey row has led to 29 people being arrested, Section 144 imposed and roads leading to Aarey blocked by police as protesters escalated their fight to save Mumbai’s ‘green lung’, a day after the Bombay HC gave its nod to the felling of over 2,500 trees for the Metro project. As the BMC began cutting trees, Preeti Sharma Menon, spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), alleged that it was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) which has been in place since the Election Commission announced assembly election dates in Maharashtra.
The site of the proposed car shed saw heavy police deployment as hundreds gathered last night to protest felling of trees. Several tweets lambasted the Devendra Fadnavis government as well as the BMC over the issue. More reactions are pouring in and protest is likely to intensify. Several celebrities, politicians — including those from the Shiv Sena — and Mumbaikars gathered to protest against the move on Saturday.
On Friday, the high court refused to recognise Aarey as a forest, allowing the authorities to cut down trees for construction of a shed for the Mumbai Metro. The decision came as a setback for activists who had been opposing the proposed felling of 2,700 trees and had demanded relocation of the depot, which is part of the Metro III project.
Photographer Sanjiv Valsan and Meenakshi Shinde, a TYBA (Political Science) student have been on a hunger strike for the past 6 days. They believe a hunger fast can send a strong and non-violent message for justice. “It is baffling why this government is supporting a carshed that could flood our city,” said Valsan.
The Aarey colony, measuring 1,287 hectares and located adjoining the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as a major green lung of the metropolis. Several Bollywood personalities and politicians had also extended their support to the activists protesting against the felling of trees in Aarey.
It’s baffling why the government is making a deliberate attempt to flood the city with this car shed. Is Mr. Fadnavis and his team listening?