Aarey Metro Car Shed: Why are Kangana Ranaut & Co Unhappy That Mumbai Can Preserve its Green Lung?

Social Commentary

Aarey Metro Car Shed: Why are Kangana Ranaut & Co Unhappy That Mumbai Can Preserve its Green Lung?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony, one of the last remaining patches of green cover in the city’s concrete jungle, just received a new lease of life. Activists who had been campaigning for the future of the Aarey forest will be delighted by the Maharashtra government’s decision to shift the site of the upcoming Metro car shed to Kanjurmarg.

Last year, under the previous BJP-led government, work began in the Aarey forest on the car shed despite stiff opposition from protestors. Over 2,000 trees were cut after the Bombay High Court dismissed the activists’ petitions. But on coming to power, Maharashtra’s new coalition government, led by the Shiv Sena, which had participated in the protests, put a stop to the construction in November last year. Now, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that the project was being shifted to Kanjurmarg during an online address.

The announcement has not been well-received by members and supporters of the previous BJP-led government’s decision to go ahead with construction in Aarey forest. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, who was CM when the project commenced, called it an “unfortunate decision” that would cost the state Rs 4,000 crore. Others from the party, like Kirit Somaiya, as well as their vocal supporters like Kangana Ranaut also made statements condemning the decision.

However, the move has gone over very well with the citizens of Mumbai who were protesting and organising themselves to protect Aarey’s forest. In addition to meeting their demands of moving the Metro car shed to conserve the forest’s biodiversity, CM Uddhav Thackeray also announced that his government would be withdrawing the cases against the activists that had been arrested during the protests in October 2019.

The state’s Environment Minister, Aaditya Thackeray, said on Twitter, “All charges against the satyagrahis protesting to save Aarey will be dropped. They protested to save a forest, that wasn’t identified formally as one, but always was one.”

The latest development in the campaign to Save Aarey gives hope to citizens that activism can result in change.