New Delhi: A day after taking oath as Maharashtra chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray on Friday announced a stay on construction of metro car shed in Mumbai's green lung Aarey Colony, where strong protests had erupted last month against the cutting of trees for the work.
Thackeray, however, clarified he has not stayed the work of the Mumbai metro rail project itself.
Thackeray, who is heading a Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-Congress coalition, was sworn in on Thursday.
The then BJP-led government in Maharashtra had come under fire from green activists in October when more than 2,000 trees were felled for a car shed, to be constructed in Aarey Colony adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The Sena, then the junior partner in the Devendra Fadnavis government, had opposed the felling of trees.
Thackeray on Friday said the new government has stayed work on the Aarey car shed work and no trees will be felled until further notice.
"I have ordered to stop the work of the Aarey metro car shed project today. The Metro work will not stop but till the next decision, not a single leaf of Aarey will be cut," he said at a press conference in Mumbai.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had extended the interim order by which it had stayed the further cutting of trees in Mumbai's Aarey colony for setting up the Metro car shed. The matter will be heard at length next month, with the court having sought a status report with pictures on plantation, transplantation and felling of trees in the area.
The Bombay High Court on October 4 had refused to declare Aarey Colony a forest and declined to quash the Mumbai municipal corporation's decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro car shed. Hours after the court gave a go-ahead, tree were cut at night, fueling outrage and protests.
"The overnight cutting of trees in Aarey is not acceptable," Thackeray said on Friday.
Shiv Sena Youth leader Aaditya Thackeray said the people of Mumbai are happy with this decision. "The development work will continue, but the harm that was being done to the environment will be stopped," he said.
Fadnavis, under whose governance the trees were felled, described the new decision as "unfortunate". "This shows that the state government is not serious about Mumbai Infrastructure projects. And the ultimate sufferer is the common Mumbaikar only," he said in a tweet in Marathi. "Such decisions will demotivate investors to come forward in future and all infrastructure projects will get stalled, which were already delayed for so long during the previous 15-year rule."