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World Nature Conservation Day: The Case of Construction of Metro Car Shed in Aarey Colony of Mumbai

The 28th of July is designated as World Nature Conservation Day each year. The purpose of the day is to protect our natural resources and the ecosystem as a whole. Save the species that are on the verge of extinction is the main goal of World Nature Conservation Day. The day aims to raise awareness of individual actions that can be made to protect the environment and our limited resources.

World Nature Conservation Day 2022

World Nature Conservation Day’s 2022 theme is “Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature.” People all across the world are becoming aware of the dangers of climate change brought on by human activity as a result of this year’s record-breaking heat, wildfires, floods, and other natural tragedies. The focus for this year is the sustainable use of natural resources by people and the application of conservation techniques to avoid exploitation of the environment through mining, hunting, and other damaging activities.
On this occasion let us look at the case of construction of the metro car shed in the green Aarey Colony of Mumbai.

Aarey Colony – The Lungs of Mumbai

Aarey Colony is often referred to as the ‘Lungs of the City’ for its extensive green cover. The area is considered to be an eco-sensitive zone, which has been suffering from dwindling green cover over the last few years.
The site is set to experience further loss of trees as it has been a chosen site for the metro car shed project by the Government of Maharashtra. In December 2016, the union environment ministry notified the eco-sensitive zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park by excluding 165 hectares of Aarey land meant for building a car depot for the Mumbai Metro Line 3. This was seen as another attempt to shrink the green cover. Line 3 is a fully underground, 33.5km long corridor, connecting south Mumbai to northwest Mumbai. It is considered the most important line as it will connect the business districts of Andheri East (SEEPZ), Bandra-Kurla complex, Worli, Colaba, and Cuffe Parade while passing through the proposed international and domestic airport terminal stations. Non-profits and private citizens came together under the banner of Aarey Conservation Group and raised concerns as to why the state and union governments, excluded 165 hectares of Aarey land from the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park if only 30-35 hectares is needed for the depot and allied activities. This larger area, citizens allege and fear, will be exploited for commercial development later.
After taking the mantle of Chief Minister-ship, Former CM of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray moved the location of the project to a plot in Kanjurmarg. With the political crisis in the state and the new Chief Minister in his place, it has been announced that the project will move back to its original location. Within a day of being sworn in as Maharashtra chief minister earlier this month, Eknath Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis announced their plan to move the metro car depot of Mumbai Metro Line 3 back to Aarey colony from Kanjurmarg.
The new government officially lifted the stay on the work at Aarey on Thursday, thus paving the way for work to resume at Aarey. Since the announcement, citizens have protested twice inside the Aarey colony, bringing back the #SaveAarey hashtag on social media. The movement is aimed at protecting the Aarey Colony forests, a sensitive ecology home to various endangered plant and animal species.
This is a classic case of environment vs. development. While the government is leaning towards development, the citizens are protesting for the conservation of the environment. The political controversy has given it altogether another dimension, which could prove to be disastrous for all the stakeholders involved.