Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday announced a stay to construction of metro carshed in the city's green lung Aarey Colony, where strong protests had erupted last month against cutting of trees for the work.
The BJP slammed the decision, with former CM Devendra Fadnavis saying that it will discourage investors and stall infrastructure projects in the city.
Thackeray, who is heading a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition, was sworn in on Thursday.
Then BJP-led government in Maharashtra had come under fire from green activists in October when over 2,000 trees were felled for a carshed, to be constructed in Aarey Colony which is adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
The Shiv Sena, then junior partner in the Devendra Fadnavis government, had opposed the felling of trees.
"I have stayed Aarey carshed work. I will review the entire thing...I will not allow a culture where trees are cut at night," Thackeray told reporters.
"Not a single tree leaf will be cut till further orders," he added, while clarifying that metro work itself has not been styaed.
A Supreme Court bench had last month sought a status report with pictures on plantation, transplantation and felling of trees in Aarey colony area.
The Bombay High Court had on October 4 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 carshed.
Hours after the court gave a go-ahead, tree were cut at night, fueling outrage.
Reacting to Thackeray's announcement, his predecessor Devendra Fadnavis said it was "unfortunate that State Government stayed Aarey Metro CarShed work in spite of Hon Supreme Court & Hon High Court orders".
"This shows State Government is not serious about Mumbai Infrastructure projects! And ultimate sufferer is common Mumbaikar only !" Fadnavis tweeted with hashtag "savemetrosaveMumbai".
Fadnavis further said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had given Rs 15,000 crore for the metro project on "nominal" interest rates.
"Decisions as the one taken by Thackeray will demotivate investors and all infrastructure projects will get stalled, which were already delayed for "so long" during the Congress-NCP combine's 15-year rule till 2014," Fadnavis said.
BJP MLA Ashish Shelar also slammed the decision.
"The hands of development are bound to move in reverse direction when you tie 'watch' on the 'hand' of 'bow and arrow', he said. The Sena's symbol is bow-and-arrow, hand is the symbol of the Congress, and watch is symbol of the NCP.
"The decision to stay carshed work of the metro project which is 70 percent complete is despicable for Mumbaikars..It is not right to politicise issues concerning Mumbaikars!!" Shelar tweeted.
Meanwhile, during the interaction with the media at the press room of the state secretariat, chief minister Thackeray also said he became chief minister unexpectedly, but he didn't want to run away from the responsibility.
He took a dig at his predecessor, Fadnavis, over the latter's "I will come again (as chief minister)" refrain during the poll campaign, saying, "I didn't announce that I will become chief minister."
The Shiv Sena president, who was accompanied by his son and MLA Aaditya, also noted that he is the first chief minister of Maharashtra who was born in Mumbai, and added that he is working on plans to ensure development of the city.
His government will be accountable for every paisa of tax-payers, the chief minister said.
Asked about the saffron kurta he was wearing, Thackeray said, cryptically, that it was his favourite colour "which cannot get washed in any laundry".
The BJP had aimed barbs at the Sena after it joined hands with the Congress-NCP, questioning its commitment to Hindutva.
Thackeray also avoided direct reply to the question whether he will shift to `Varsha', the official bungalow of chief minister in south Mumbai, from his residence `Matoshree' in suburban Bandra.
He will do "whatever it takes to meet people and solve their problems", he said.