After a long battle fought by environmental activists and local poeple to save what is known as Mumbai's 'green lung', the conflict over the Metro car shed in Aarey Colony is finally over. On October 11, 2020, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray declared that the car shed, which was the bone of contention in the almost decade-long conflict, would be shifted out of Aarey forests and would now be built on government land in Kanjurmarg in central Mumbai. The chief minister also directed the police to withdraw all cases filed against Aarey protestors. The move to relocate the car shed comes after a landmark decision of the Maharashtra government in September to reserve 600 acres of land in Aarey as reserved forest. According to Thackeray, the decision will protect the rights of the tribal community living within the forest. Amitra Bhattacharjee from the Aarey Conservation Group said that the declaration was the first step towards conservation of Aarey. However, the proposed reserved forest area did not include the land on which the car shed was being built. Aarey Colony is home to a large number of tribespeople, who have lived in the area for generations and run cowsheds that supply milk to a government-run dairy. They have been opposing the metro car shed since it was proposed in 2011. They claimed that construction activity had destroyed a portion of wetlands in the area, which is crucial for streams to flow. Aarey is the catchment area of the Mithi river. Environmental experts too warned that any construction in the area could cause flooding. In October 2019, the Tree Authority of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) sought permission to cut more than 2,700 trees in Aarey Colony to build a car shed for Colaba-Bandra SEEPZ Metro Line 3. Although the Supreme Court stayed the felling of trees on October 7, some damage had already been done as sufficient trees were cut on October 4, following an earlier order of the Bombay High Court that allowed the felling of trees. On October 8, the tribal residents in Aarey Colony organised a funeral for the lost trees and wildlife. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) had announced the 20-km-long Colaba-Bandra Metro Line in January 2004. The plan encompassed 146 kilometres of railway track, of which 32 kilometres was to be underground. In 2011, the MMRDA proposed to extend the Metro Line. A car shed was proposed on 30 hectares as part of the expansion. But following protests by the residents, the area for the car shed was scaled down to 20.82 hectares. After the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) declared Aarey Colony an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), the state government considered a private plot at Royal Palms, a residential project of Royal Palms India, according to the managing director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation. However, this, too, has been opposed by the residents as Royal Palms is situated inside Aarey Colony and is, therefore, a part of the ESZ. On April 15, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the application filed by social activist Amrita P. Bhattacharjee challenging Aarey Colony as the site for the metro line. While dismissing the petition, the court referred to the report of the Technical Committee on the feasibility of the metro depot in Aarey Colony. In September 2019, the MMRDA announced its plan to acquire 29,869 square feet of Aarey forest for a site office, labour camp and casting yard for the Andheri-Kanjurmarg Metro Line 3. The state government had given permission for the land acquisition, but after mass public protests, the MMRDA shelved its plan to acquire land in Aarey and decided to take up a plot of land in Wadala to build the casting yard. The MMRDA came under flak from local people, green activists and celebrities alike, who joined hands for the Save Aarey campaign. Earlier in 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had upheld the MoEFCC's decision to reduce the size of land for development purpose to 407 acres - roughly the size of 18 Oval cricket grounds - from the entire 15,000 acres of land in Aarey notified as ESZ. The ministry justified the reduced ESZ and said that the Metro car shed would be built in the excluded zone. Mumbai-based non-profit Vanashakti had challenged this decision in the Supreme Court. On June 16, 2020, the apex court dismissed the plea, observing that "Mumbai was a congested city and Metro is important". However, by September, reports were already doing the rounds in media suggesting that the metro shed site had been closed and construction material was being moved out.
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA)
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Aarey Conservation Group, Vanashakti
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Legislations Involved in the Conflict:
Land Acquisition Laws
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?