Infrastructure works undertaken in haste can lead to waste and not true development, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said Sunday, days after the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis demanded the Mr Thackeray and the Shiv Sena-led state government give up its “ego” and resume construction of the controversial metro car shed project at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony.
Mr Thackery, whose administration halted building work at Aarey and shifted it to Kanjurmarg in October after a fierce protest by civil society and environmental activists, hit back at Mr Fadnavis and said that if wanting the best for Mumbai was “arrogance” then he admitted to the fault.
“I am being called ‘arrogant’ on the subject of the Metro car shed. Yes, I am arrogant for Mumbai. We sent the car shed to Kanjurmarg because building it in Aarey was destroying the forest there. First, trees would have been cut for a car shed… then for something else… and slowly the whole forest would have disappeared,” Mr Thackeray said.
“It is not true that for development to occur things must only be done quickly. Working in haste can lead to losses and waste. We want development… but for present and future generations,” the Chief Minister continued, pointing out that this was going on despite reduced cash flow.
“We decided to build the car shed at Kanjurmarg because in Aarey only Metro 3 shed would have been possible. In Kanjurmarg, sheds for Metro 3, 4, and 6 are possible. There is also space here for further expansion of the project. If we built in Aarey, it would have been useful for five years. In Kanjurmarg it will be useful for 50 years,” he added.
“You (people of Maharashtra) please tell me… what is the arrogance in this?” Mr Thackeray asked.
Last week the Bombay High Court put a temporary stop to construction in Kanjurmarg, with the centre contesting ownership of the land – around 102 acres – saying it belonged to its salt department.
A day later Devendra Fadnavis (who was Chief Minister before Mr Thackeray, and whose government pushed the Aarey site through) claimed the state had shifted construction “only to satisfy its ego”.
Mr Thackeray shot back: “Politics shouldn’t come in the way of the development… more than ownership, what is important is how the project will benefit people.”
The proposed construction of a car shed in Aarey led to a bitter row last year between environmental activists and the then BJP-ruled government, which wanted to cut down 2,700 trees to build the shed. The Sena, then an ally of the BJP, was firmly opposed to the plan.
The Aarey forest – a vast swathe of green with around five lakh trees and home to a wide variety of animals and birds – is widely seen as the “green lung of Mumbai”.
In October last year the Bombay High Court refused to declare Aarey a forest. Activists wrote to then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, asking the Supreme Court to intervene. The court ordered a temporary stay but the then Maharashtra government said it had cut down the required trees.
Construction was stopped in November after the results of the Assembly election, which saw the BJP ousted and Sena come to power, with Uddhav Thackeray becoming Chief Minister.
Mr Thackeray ordered a stay on construction (on cleared land) in one of his first decisions.