The proposed Mumbai Metro Rail car shed at Aarey Milk Colony is almost a reality now. Last week the central government redefined the buffer zone of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SNGP) and reduced it to 100 meters. With this, the way for the car shed was made clearer.
However, the environmentalists and citizens are fighting tooth and nail to oppose the car shed project. They claim that the car shed will destroy the serene forest of Aarey Milk Colony.
The movement began with the support from the residents of Aarey Milk Colony who came forward to oppose the Metro Car Shed, and they were joined by prominent environmentalists and NGOs of Mumbai.
Together, they took the movement ahead and even moved National Green Tribunal (NGT) demanding scrapping of the proposed metro car shed. The environmentalists and citizen's group even suggested many alternative sites for the car shed, which were rejected by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) and the state government, on technical grounds.
The struggle is on
The struggle was intensified after the central government redefined the buffer zone of SGNP. As a part of the movement, a silent protest was organised at Aarey Milk Colony on Monday.
While the protest was being planned, those who were part of the movement in initial days, preferred to keep away. They not just kept away from the agitation, but also gave vent to their anger on social media.
Rishi Aggarwal, Mumbai-based environmentalist, who was part of the movement in the initial days, has parted ways with the movement.
"I feel repulsed by a lot of people who are now driving this effort. I hold these people responsible for the death of the original movement started by me which actually brought a stop to the work on site. Instead of developing on that, there was a breakaway faction and others hijacked the movement," Aggarwal said.
He feels that the CM Devendra Fadnavis and MMRCL will construct the car shed at Aarey Milk Colony, especially after the buffer zone has been altered.
"The battle against Metro Car Shed is futile. The crucial time in the movement when we could have stopped the car shed, has been lost. The biggest failure of the movement is that it failed to gather political heft. Even the CM didn't grant a proper meeting to the leaders of the campaign. This is enough to understand the hurdles faced by the movement," Aggarwaal said.
In his opinion, the environmental movement in Mumbai is losing every battle. Let it be the coastal road, the issue of dumping grounds, air quality of the city, saving the mangroves, protecting water sources and the buffer zone of SGNP.
"The Environmental Impact Assessment reports and public hearings have been reduced to mere formalities. They does not hold any importance if the project proponents have made up their mind. This is exactly what has happened in the case of Metro Car Shed at Aarey Milk Colony," he said.
Despite giving alternatives to the Metro Car Shed, the government bulldozed its way into Aarey Milk Colony. This shows that the movement lacked intellectual, rigorous, courageous and well-resourced approach. The campaigners banked only on the emotional appeal to save trees by hugging them, Aggaarwal added.
Stalin Dayanand, Director Projects of Mumbai-based NGO Vanashakti, who is spearheading the movement denied that it was a futile battle.
"We will not give up that easily. The matter is still pending at the NGT. We are inching towards victory. The fact that more than 1,500 people gathered at Aarey Colony to protest on Monday is evidence of the support the movement has," said Stalin.
"Everyone who will be affected by the Metro Car Shed participated in the agitation. Let it be poor tribal people living in Aarey Colony or the celebrities or middle and higher middle class people, all supported the agitation," he added.
"Thousands of people have expressed solidarity with the movement. We are taking several initiatives to rope in more and more people to strengthen the movement. It was because of the pressure that political parties like Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena supported us and presented a strong case with the state government against the Metro Car Shed," Stalin said.