Millennium Post

Development misconstrued

In these times of competing growth and a diluted notion of development, narrowly viewed possibilities and blinked visions have had the environment bear the brunt of it—but, considering matters in terms of consequences, it is the common people that are at the receiving end of the erratic weather events provoked by inconsiderate human activities in the name of 'development'. With regard to the political obsession of development, the crucial understanding is missed that for there to be any development in the real sense, there needs to be sustainability in outcome of the efforts made. If a structure, for instance, is constructed on a tract of cleared forest land, the natural mechanism of holding rain water ceases to exist and the and the amount of excess water flooding the region will thus render the development effort rather useless for a set of reasons. Similar has been the case with Mumbai's Aarey Colony for the proposed car shed for Mumbai Metro 3. Close to 1,500 trees were felled on the first day as officials carried out the drive against High Court's orders. While governance takes a backseat before the politics of development, and despite the fact that common people have a heightened awareness while environment activists are steadfastly at work, the conflict continues over felling more than 2,500 trees in Aarey Colony. It is only expected that such a situation takes the form of political row that erupts to compound matters. Concerned citizens took to protests which intensified on Saturday amid heavy restrictions leading to the arrests of 29 people and 38 being booked. Several leaders were also detained while protesting. Giving political tones to a serious environment issue is, however, a glimpse into the gravity of how extensive the issue is. As matters stand in the present, the blockage of roads in Aarey and surrounding areas have been causing difficulties for the locals and tourists. This also raises questions about the consequences of putting permanent structures in this place. Meanwhile, allies Shiv Sena and BJP have been at loggerheads over the issue as opposition in Maharashtra blames the ruling alliance for the "slaughter" of trees. Congress also pitched in to slam Shiv Sena for taking to double standards by condemning BMC tree authority's decision to cut trees but continuing to support the BJP-led government. With the searing political drama over the axing of trees, more reactions are pouring in from people from different walks of life.

Bombay High Court had cancelled four petitions on Friday challenging the cutting of nearly 3,000 trees in Aarey Colony, the proposed site for developing the infrastructure. This process of cutting nearly 3,000 trees in Aarey began under the cover of darkness on Friday night. Mumbai Metro Chief Ashwini Bhide has claimed that such a proceeding is not illegal and went on to label the noise surrounding the matter as "false propaganda". In a social media message, the Mumbai Metro Chief also referred to Friday's Bombay High Court order on the Aarey trees and criticised the activists for continuing to oppose the cutting of trees, insisting that it was their actions that were "illegal". The "false propaganda" refers to the 15 days' notice that is required after tree authority order gets uploaded on website. Such a proposition is claimed to be baseless. Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) went on record to say that the Tree Authority order was issued on September 13, 2019, 15 days prior to September 28 and action was awaited till the Bombay High Court verdict came out. Administrative complications aside, the Metro chief termed the move "inevitable", explaining further through social media that "Sometimes to construct something new destruction becomes inevitable but it also paves the way for new life and new creation." It is just here that the point of deliberation lies—for Mumbai and everywhere else in the world that seeks development at the cost of common lives by means of little regard for nature. Under the imposition of section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Aarey which restricts movements and gathering of groups, activists attempted getting relief from the Bombay High Court by approaching it again and seeking a stay to tree cutting but the bench refused to relent. The vociferous protests could not prevent hundreds of trees being felled in the wake of administrative procedures that are claimed to be correct. The protests rage on the basis that the government of Maharashtra is on the move to clear Mumbai's 'Green Lung'. Students particularly have been proactive in leading the protest. Beyond the details of the situation, what must be understood is that a decision of the government is made for the welfare of the people, whether directly or indirectly. The matter of car shed for metro could be addressed without damaging the environment. As a matter of fact, an alternate site to build a car shed was available. The government needs to understand that no development is worth undertaking if it damages the environment and that striking that delicate balance between infrastructural upgrade and environmental sensitivity is, in fact, the true measure of development.

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