Mumbai: The Shiv Sena has come under the scanner over what appears to be its divergent takes on deforestation in Aurangabad and Mumbai.
‘Hypocrisy is a disease ! Get well soon @ShivSena ‘ ! Tree cutting – at ur convenience or allowing tree cutting only when you earn commission – unpardonable sins !! pic.twitter.com/7f68PWPIbA
— AMRUTA FADNAVIS (@fadnavis_amruta) December 8, 2019
“The party fought the decision to fell trees at Aarey Colony, but the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, which it controls, wants to chop down 1,000 trees for a Bal Thackeray memorial in Priyadarshini Park.”
cc: Commuters https://t.co/S056w4bx5G
— Amrita Bhinder (@amritabhinder) December 8, 2019
While Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s first decision as Maharashtra chief minister was to stay work on the Metro car shed in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, for which over 2,000 trees were cut in a wooded area, the party is looking to raze about 1,000 trees in Aurangabad for a sprawling, state-of-the-art memorial for party founder Bal Thackeray.
The Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), which is led by the Shiv Sena, has identified the 17-acre Priyadarshini Park as the site of the memorial.
Priyadarshini Park, a vast expanse of lush wooded land, is located in the centre of Aurangabad. It is home to an estimated 70 species of birds and 40 species of butterflies and reptiles.
According to sources, the memorial will have an amphitheatre, a food court and a museum on the life and times of the Shiv Sena founder, who died in 2012. The entire project will be spread across three acres and cost around Rs 61 crore, the sources added.
The AMC’s plan is to cut the trees in phases, and the civic bodyhas reportedly alreadyissued newspaper ads for the removal of the first set of 330 trees.
ThePrint tried to get in touch with several Shiv Sena leaders who have been vocal about deforestation in Aarey Colony, but they were “unavailable” for comment.
‘Not one tree will be cut’
A PIL filed against the project is currently being heard by the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court.
According to the petition, filed through lawyer Sunny Khinwasara, the land on which the park stands has been leased out to the civic body by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), a planning agency of the Maharashtra government.
The lease conditions state that the civic body will maintain Priyadarshini Park as a garden.
In 1980, the land, then barren, was handed over by CIDCO to the Mahatma Gandhi Mission, an NGO. Over the subsequent years, the NGO planted over 10,000 trees and made it what it is today.
Speaking to the media Saturday, Aurangabad mayor Nandkumar Ghodele said the civic body will take care not to cut a single tree for the memorial. A similar clarification was issued by Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi on Twitter.
Ma’am, sorry to disappoint you but the truth is that not a single tree will be cut for the memorial, mayor has confirmed it too.
Also, just to be clear, compulsive lying is a bigger disease, get well soon
PS: Commission to cut trees is a new policy measure promoted by @bjpmaha ? https://t.co/yfoubeVRzL
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) December 8, 2019
However, sources said it was not possible to erect a memorial without cutting down a single tree in the park.
“The place is densely populated with trees. It is not possible to build what they plan to do, spread across three acres, without cutting down a single tree,” one of the sources said. “It is laughable.”
“It is actually double standards of the Shiv Sena,” said Kedar Gore, a Mumbai-based environmentalist. “The fact that they are planning on cutting down 1,000 trees in Aurangabad and protesting in Aarey shows that the latter is a political stunt. If the Shiv Sena leadership truly cared about the trees and greenery, they would have immediately stopped the project itself,” he added.
“At least the Metro will help Mumbai, what will this memorial do for Aurangabad?” Gore said.