The October 11, 2018 ruling proved of great help to activists and the people protesting the tree felling in Aarey, as it gave them the respite they needed. This is important because in 2018 Vanshakti's petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to declare Aarey a "forest" was rejected. Another petition from 2017 by Amrita Bhattacharjee of the Aarey Conservation Group to repeal Aarey's land use change from No Development Zone to Metro Car Shed was dismissed by the Bombay High Court in 2018.
All hearings before the tree authority took place for almost a year, and finally, according to the minutes of the meeting on August 29, 2019, the tree authority decided to cut 2646 trees in Aarey. People had time to contest the order, and this time the Chairman of the MCGM Standing Committee, Mr. Yashant K. Jadhav, approached me to contest the order from the tree authority. It is interesting to note that Mr. Jadhav was a member of the tree authority.
The order to cut trees has been challenged for the following reasons:
(a) The proposal could not be discussed due to lack of time.
(b) The minutes of the meeting do not disclose exactly what happened in the meeting of Respondent No. 1 on August 29, 2019 and 2016
(c) The minutes of the session and the conclusions contained therein contravene what the Court of Justice passed in PIL (L) No. 60 of 2019.
However, the Bombay Supreme Court denied the petition, as well as other petitions contesting the tree authority's decision to start cutting trees on October 4, 2019. With the rejection of the petitions, the then state government began to fell trees on a war basis, and about 1,000 trees were felled, but by the time the Supreme Court granted residence on October 7, 2019, the Shiv Sena stand is interesting and commendable, which, despite being part of the BJP Alliance, continued to speak out against the felling of trees in Aarey as and the construction of the Metro Shed in Aarey.
At the end of 2019, the BJP was unable to form a government despite a pre-election alliance in which the BJP-Shiv Sena gained a majority. A new unexpected government led by Shiv Sena leader Shri Uddhav Thackeray, supported by Congress and the NCP, came to power and Aarey was given his freedom. On November 29, 2019, one day after being sworn in as Prime Minister, the Thackeray government suspended construction work on the car shed and ordered a review of the feasibility of moving to another location.
The October 11, 2020 announcement is a natural conclusion to what Shiv Sena promised. After Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray's announcement that the underground shed will be relocated to Kanjurmarg and the Aarey Colony will be declared a forest, I am overwhelmed by the fact that the Aarey ecosystem has finally been saved.
It's a great victory for the people. We all know that Mumbai is the fourth polluted megacity in the world, where 9 out of 10 people breathe bad air. So it is very important for us to save the forest in order to reduce pollution. And while the Metro plan would benefit people, those benefits should never come at the expense of the destruction of nature. Once we've destroyed the environment, even with world-class technology, we can't bring it back.
The Aarey Forest, which was on the verge of slaughter in the name of development, was saved today.
In conclusion, I would like to call on every citizen of this country to plant at least one tree to save nature and protect our future generations.