Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, declared 800 acres of Aarey a reserve forest and withdrew cases against people protesters against the building of a car shed in the area. As of now, the car shed – part of a Metrorail project – will move to Kanjurmarg. The building already in Aarey will instead serve a public purpose.
Aarey forest safe after long fight
Last year in September and October, protests grew in strength. Environmental activists demanded the BJP-ruled government that construction in Aarey be shut down. Aarey, home to very diverse flora and fauna, also protected Mumbai from air pollution. In fact, the forest of five lakh trees was called the ‘lungs’ of Mumbai. Furthermore, it is home to the Warli Adivasi community. Generations lived there – and they only wished to continue doing so and protecting their home. To cut down nearly 3,000 trees for the sake of industrialisation was clearly going to enhance air pollution and reduce the protection that the forest provided.
When the protests began, the case went to court too. The Bombay High Court, however, decided against protecting Aarey. The same night, bulldozers entered Aarey and fell several trees. Amidst this, an environmental cabinet minister and son of CM, Aaditya Thackeray, tweeted that it was a disgusting move. Activists also asked the Supreme Court to back them up. Meanwhile, protesters were already starting to face cases.
The court then placed a temporary stay. However, the government said that it did not need to cut down more trees for construction, the court also refused to stay the card shed’s construction. Later, in November, the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress became allies, putting BJP out of power. CM Thackeray then ordered a stay on the car shed construction.
In December, the CM also directed the withdrawal of cases against protesters. Now, that is complete, and Aarey is safe from its destruction, giving activists a triumphant.
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