The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has bowed to the demands of citizens who protested, en masse, against further land acquisition in Mumbai’s Aarey forest area. The authority issued a statement saying, “It is clarified that the MMRDA has arranged casting yards for Line 6 at Wadala and other sites of existing yards and there is no proposal for casting yard land in Aarey,”. The statement was issued on Tuesday by By Dilip Kawathkar, joint projects director, MMRDA. Kawathkar said the MMRDA requires 28,813 square metres of land to set up a casting yard.
The MMRDA also released a statement saying it had sought two plots along the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR). With alternate arrangements at Wadala, a lot measuring 1,500 square metre along JVLR (already in use for construction) will be used as a yard. The under-construction metro line six covers 14.5km, between Swami Samarth Nagar in Oshiwara and Vikhroli, and is expected to cost ₹ 6,716 crore. While media reports described the announcement as a triumph of the people’s movements, activists have stressed that this is, in fact, only a small victory. While the casting yard proposal may be scrapped, they say, other projects which are oriented towards opening up of the buffer zones still stand.
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“Many people are believing that the entire metro car shed project has been shifted, a false narrative is being projected by media reports,” Harshad, a local activist, told NewsClick. “We have been asking for a No Development Zone to be declared for the Aarey Forest and for it to be merged with Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is important to remember the sheer number of projects that are coming up in the region, this includes the Metro-3 Car Shed project, the SRA scheme, the Metro Bhavan and the RTO scheme. So, while this decision by the MMRDA is significant, there is a long battle ahead. The casting yard was just one project. The sword of other projects still dangles over the neck the forest. There is not much reason for us to be happy about it.”
Over 300 hectares of forest land has been acquired in Aarey for these multiple projects. Yash Marwa an activist associated with the Let India Breathe campaign added, “This is just a token move, the land which is being shifted is not much, it is barely 6 acres, the larger issues still remain. While people are congratulating one another over this bit of news and the impact of the campaign we must lot let it the larger fight.”
A proposal to cut over three thousand trees in the Aarey Milk colony, tabled in August of this year, is currently under deliberation and awaiting a green light from the Tree Authority. The Tree Authority, which comes under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), previously cleared a proposal to fell 2,702 trees in Aarey Forest for the much contested Metro car shed project. The same body also permitted the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to cut 2,232 trees from the Aarey Colony and translocate 469 others to make way for the construction of the car service centre.