Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday justified his government's decision to declare 600 acres in Aarey Colony area in Mumbai's Goregaon as a reserved forest.
Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, he said experts were being consulted to find out how the metro rail carshed, which was being built in a part of the land in Aarey area, can be shifted without affecting the expenditure already incurred on it.
The proposed metro carshed in Aarey has been at the centre of a controversy due to the high number of trees that need to be cut with environmentalists in the past mounting several legal challenges to stall the construction.
Thackeray said Aarey-SGNP (Sanjay Gandhi National Park) was the only forest area in the world within city limits, and with wildlife.
"It is our duty to protect flora and fauna as well as the environment along with development of infrastructure," the CM said.
Taking a swipe at leader of opposition and former CM Devendra Fadnavis, Thackeray said, "It is true one shouldn't have ego while running a government. But we shouldn't go for shortcuts either. When you go for shortcuts, then trees are destroyed in the dark of the night."
"What used to be done in darkness, we do it in broad daylight," he added.
Trees were cleared in the night last October to pave the way for the construction of the carshed when Fadnavis was CM, and several activists who arrived at the site to stop the felling were detained and charged with various offences.
Speaking on the COVID-19 outbreak, Thackeray said the state now had 530 testing labs, up from three when the outbreak began in March, while the number of beds had risen from 7,700 to 3.5 lakh.
To fight the outbreak, his government had set up field hospitals, district level expert task force and coronavirus vigilance committees, the chief minister said, adding "this is the people's fight against the pandemic".
He said the state government was planning to set up infection hospitals in various cities.
Wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing were the only vaccine against the novel coronavirus at the moment, said Thackeray.
He said the first phase of the MVA government's door- to-door survey will be conducted between September 15 and October 10, and the second phase will be held from October 12 to October 24.
The survey aims at covering every household in the state to curb the outbreak and create awareness about the pandemic.