The Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government on Thursday lifted the stay on the construction of Metro-3 car shed in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony despite objections from environmental activists, PTI reported.

The state urban development department issued a letter to SVR Srinivas, commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, and Ashwini Bhide, managing director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited, reported the Hindustan Times. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited is executing the project.

“Metro Line 3 is a joint project of the central and state government,” stated the letter written by Vijay Chaudhary, deputy secretary of the urban development department. “On March 3, the union housing and urban affairs ministry was directed to complete the Metro 3 car shed work at the earliest. Considering the recent reports filed by MMRCL and MMRDA, the state government has decided to lift the stay.”

In November 2019, the Uddhav Thackeray-led state government had stopped work on the Aarey car shed. On October 11, 2020, Thackeray had announced that 800 acres of land in the Aarey Colony would be declared a reserve forest and that the car shed for the metro project in the area would be relocated to Kanjurmarg.

In December 2020, the Bombay High Court ordered a status quo on the project.

The Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which included the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, was overthrown in June.

Eknath Shinde was sworn in as the chief minister of Maharashtra on June 30, while the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis took oath as his deputy.

In the first Cabinet meeting of the new government, Shinde and Fadnavis overturned Thackeray’s decision to shift the Metro-3 car shed out of the Aarey Colony.

On Thursday, Shinde and Fadnavis held a press conference and said that they will start the construction work at the earliest, the Hindustan Times reported.

“We have taken the decision considering environmental balance as 17 lakh commuters are expected to travel on this route,” Shinde said.

Shinde said that the project is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and a delay in its completion may impact other proposals as well.

Meanwhile, Fadnavis said that the Supreme Court had already permitted the construction of the car shed at Aarey, PTI reported.

“Despite this, if some environmentalists still want to oppose the construction of the car shed, then their intentions would come under suspicion,” the deputy chief minister added.

Fadnavis claimed that Thackeray ordered a stay on the project out of “sheer ego and nothing else”.

“Thackeray, after becoming the chief minister, appointed a committee headed by then-additional chief secretary [finance] Manoj Saunik,” Fadnavis said. “The committee had recommended that the Metro-3 car shed be constructed at the Aarey site instead the land parcel available at Kanjurmarg. Thackeray set aside the recommendation and stayed any further construction at the Aarey site.”

The Aarey site was finalised as the spot where the car shed will be constructed when the Congress-NCP combine was in power, Fadnavis added, reported PTI.

“One should not forget that the Aarey site was finalised by then-chief minister Prithviraj Chavan when the Congress and the NCP were in power,” he said. “Post-2014, the BJP-Sena government only availed international loan for it and started implementing the project.”

The announcement to lift a stay came a day after Fadnavis met the Consul General of Japan in Mumbai Fukahori Yasukata and assured him that all the projects funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency will be sped up.

Aarey is considered one of Mumbai’s last green areas. Several concerned citizens have held protests to protect it from concretisation.