What Govt. Won’t Tell You About 3,500 Trees Being Cut For ‘Development’ In Mumbai

Posted by Kartik Shah in Environment, Staff Picks
October 21, 2017

Mumbai’s lush green Aarey Forest is under threat due to various development projects – the foremost being the cutting of 3,500 trees for the construction of a car shed for the upcoming Mumbai Metro 3. Activists along with actors and artists and many others have been petitioning CM Devendra Fadnavis to relocate the car shed to another area and help Mumbai retain its green space.

However, a lot of people are misunderstanding that we are against the Mumbai metro and the government. What we are against is a lack of conversation and transparency from the government. Here is a quick fact check.

1. Are we against the metro?

NO. We are against the cutting of 3,500 trees for the metro car shed. This is where the parking of the trains will be done. It’s alarming why the trains will be parked in the middle of a forest at the cost of thousands of trees. Also, the idea of a Metro Station at Aarey is purely ridiculous, because there are hardly any people living there! The government added this station so that it can build commercial activities around it in the future. To put this in perspective, have you ever imagined trains being parked in New York’s Central Park or a train station inside the park built after cutting its trees? It’s the green lung of New York and the government does every bit to save it. So why can’t we?

 In fact, Mumbai might need 10 lines of metro in the future, but if we don’t stand up to the cutting of trees right now, there wont be any green patch left for Mumbaikars in the future. It’s not development, it’s suicide.

A protest against the construction of the metro car shed

2. We all need a Metro. Trees jaaye bhaad mein. (To hell with the trees.) They will grow again.

There are seven options of land available to the government where there is clean land to build this parking shed and station WITHOUT cutting trees. Still, it has chosen Aarey Forest – the only remaining lungs of Mumbai! The reason? Shh… Shhh… Smelling a rot here?

The 3,500 trees will not grow again, but there is a chance the government will cut more trees again. It already has a lot of commercial projects lined up after the trees are cut, including a zoo. Yes, a fuckin’ zoo in the middle of a forest. Not just a zoo, about 100 hectares of land for a rehabilitation township is reserved in Aarey. So, it does not stop at the metro shed! Remember the full-page ads run by the MMRCL in every leading newspaper in Mumbai and Gujarat some months ago for the metro? It claimed no commercial activity will be planned in Aarey, then why make a metro station in Aarey? Daal mein kuch kaala hai? (Is there something fishy?)

3. But the government is replanting trees, what’s your problem buddy?

So, it basically wants to cut what is 100 years old and then replant a sapling, which might give enough oxygen to save a dying Mumbai after 100 years. Excellent! It’s like removing all the old politicians from this country overnight, and putting toddlers in charge of the country. (I believe they will govern better though.)

4. Are we anti-BJP? Is there any political party involved in this?

NO. We are a volunteer group of students, artists, painters, actors, musicians, CEOs, Dalits, Adivasis, Dabbawalas, farmers – trying to make sense of this horrible idea of destroying a forest for a parking shed for a train. Whether the ruling party was BJP, Congress, AAP or any other, we would have still done this protest as we need air to breathe. PM Narendra Modi gave a speech on World Environment Day, that destruction of nature at the cost of development is dangerous and the citizens should stand against it. We are just doing that. We believe anybody who is not following this should be held accountable. Looking at what’s happening in Delhi with the toxic air (the city does not have a forest to save itself), it’s important to raise our voice NOW to save Aarey.

Aarey Forest

5. But Aarey is not a forest, it’s a milk colony.

Have you been to Aarey and explored? Dont get fooled by its area. It works, thrives and survives as a forest. It has more than 4 lakh trees, an active ecosystem, rare birds, animals, its own lakes, farms, and its own community of people. Also, have you ever seen leopards and snakes in other parks before? The forest department is deliberately concealing information and altering the facts since some time now. Almost 30% of this space has already been given for commercial projects that we know of, like for Film City, Royal Palms etc. The metro is a step towards allocating more and more land for profit.

6. If it has 4 lakh trees, cutting of 3,500 trees will make no difference. Its only 1%!

What happens if you lose an eye? Or a finger? It was easy for Dronacharya to screw Eklavya’s life by taking his shooting thumb. These 3,500 trees are that thumb. The epicentre of the earthquake in Gujarat was in Kutch, but buildings collapsed in Ahmedabad, 500 km away. Do you need more metaphors? It’s not only trees that are cut – it’s the birds, animals, surroundings, and the total ecosystem. It will be a chain reaction so horrible for this already struggling city. This will surely be the tipping point.

7. Is the government ready for a conversation? It must have valid reasons to cut Aarey, right?

NOT YET. All we are asking for is a conversation with the government, BMC, MMRCL, CM and ask them WHY Aarey?? Till now even after more than 100 days of asking the question and inviting the CM to have a conversation with us, we have heard no answers from the authorities. We understand why, as they do not have a justified answer! Why would they choose Aarey over 7 other places? WE DONT KNOW YET.

Kartik Shah at Aarey Forest. A still from #ChipkoRe, a music video by Maati Baani feat. Piyush Mishra on why we need to save the trees.

8. What do I have to help this cause?

Firstly, sign the petition. CM Devendra Fadnavis is the only CM who is a direct decision maker on Change.org. So any petition filed under his name has to be monitored (we hope so). If we get enough signatures, it will create a pressure for a conversation.

Secondly, raise your voice now! Already work (definitely illegal) has started at the metro site and it will be a matter of time before the trees are murdered. Please be aware that a tree getting cut affects us! We may not be able to see it, but it surely does. We only attach to the fact that directly affect us, like potholes, rain, heat, flooding, but we are always indifferent to trees. Only if all the trees could have a meter to show how they benefit us, we would be worshipping them. 

Lastly, share this post to make every Mumbaikar aware of this matter.

If we dont stand up now, every inch of our green belt will be sold for ‘development’. Tab bolna mat – “Saans mein ghutan ho rahi hai.” (Don’t say then – “It’s difficult to breathe.”)