The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which has been strongly advocating for eco-conservation by cancelling the metro project at Aarey on ‘concerns’ that trees are being cut, seems to have taken a u-turn as Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, which Sena controls, wants to now chop down 1,000 trees for a Bal Thackeray memorial in Priyadarshini Park.
According to the Mumbai Mirror report, Shiv Sena-governed Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) is all set to cut nearly 1,000 trees for a memorial of the party’s founder, the late Bal Thackeray. This decision of the AMC comes after Shiv Sena Chief and newly elected CM Uddhav Thackeray had stopped work on a Metro car shed at Aarey Colony claiming that the project would require felling of many trees.
Reportedly, Priyadarshini Park is dense wood that spans across 17 acres in the middle of Aurangabad. It serves as a green lung to the city and used for walking, jogging and other leisure activities. According to environmental activists, the park is home to 70 species, 40 species of butterflies and various reptiles and small mammals.
However, the Sena which runs the AMC for the past 25 years now wants to build a memorial for Bala Thackeray by felling thousands of trees at Priyadarshini Park. The memorial will also have an amphitheatre, a museum and a food court. It will be built with a whopping cost of Rs 61 crore.
Sunny Khinwsara, a lawyer for petitioners who have filed a Petition in the Bombay HC said that as per AMC’s own project report there is a need to cut at least 1,000 trees.
“AMC’s affidavit in court is silent on the number of trees needs to be cut for the project. It just says ‘minimum number’ of trees will be cut. In fact, in an advertisement published by AMC in a local newspaper, it had invited tenders for the cutting of 330 trees,” he added.
According to Khinwsara, the park was taken by the AMC from City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) on the terms that the former will maintain a public garden there. In his affidavit, he also claimed that the condition of the park has deteriorated since it was taken over by AMC from CIDCO in 2016 and that more than 1,200 trees have either been cut or dried up.
Reportedly, the CIDCO handed over the land in the 1980s to Mahatma Gandhi Mission, who converted the barren land to a lush green park over the years by planting more than 10,000 trees.
However, Aurangabad mayor Nandkumar Ghodele has denied the reports that trees are being cut for the memorial. He said that they will ensure that no trees are cut while building the memorial and will abide by directions given by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“There has been talks circulating that we are going to cut trees to build a memorial for HinduHriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray. As a Mayor, I would like to clarify — we are going to ensure that no trees are cut for the construction of the memorial.
-Mayor Nandkumar Ghodele pic.twitter.com/IANbWWpc7F
— Shivsena Communication (@ShivsenaComms) December 8, 2019
Soon after coming to power in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had ordered to put a halt to the car shed construction for the Mumbai Metro in Aarey Milk Colony.
Addressing his first press conference as chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray said, “I have ordered to stop the work of Aarey metro car shed project today. Metro work will not stop but till next decision, not a single leaf of Aarey will be cut”. Saying that overnight cutting of trees in Aarey was not acceptable, Thackeray said not a single tree leaf will be cut till further notice.
A day after new CM Uddhav Thackeray had stopped construction of the metro car shed in the Aarey Milk Colony his government had registered against officials and a contractor for allegedly cutting of trees along the route of Metro Line in Thane.
The Supreme Court had last month, clarified that there is no stay order on the construction of Metro shed in Aarey Colony, with a stipulation that a stay on felling of trees will remain. However, the Metro Corporation had clearly stated that that they have cut all the trees that needed to be cut and they do not need to cut any more trees in the area.