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No formal nod given to axe Aarey trees, BMC tells Bombay HC

The tree authority of the Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) informed the Bombay high court on Wednesday that it has not yet granted Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) a formal permission to cut 2,185 and transplant 461 trees for the Metro-3 car shed at Aarey Colony.

Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL), questioning the approval to cut trees at Aarey Colony, senior advocate Ravi Kadam, representing the tree authority, said what the petitioner has placed before the court was just a stenographer’s copy of the order. Kadam said the formal permission to MMRC was yet to be given and he sought time to place on record the tree authority’s resolution and minutes of meeting dated August 29, 2019.

The division bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Bharati Dangre granted Kadam a week to submit the documents and respond to the PIL filed by activist Zoru Bhathena.

Bhathena has moved high court challenging the August 29 decision of the tree authority on the grounds that it did not follow the procedure laid down by the high court earlier this year.

His PIL said the tree authority, constituted under the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1971, had on June 30, called for suggestions and objections from members of the public on the proposal by the MMRC seeking removal of 2,702 trees – cutting 2,238 trees and transplanting 464 trees. On July 8, the tree officer conducted a public hearing, where around 500 citizens raised their objections, but none of the objections were taken into consideration by the tree authority, said Bhathena’s plea.

On August 29, the tree authority cleared the proposal to remove 2,646 trees – 2,185 to be cut and 461 to be transplanted.

Bhathena contended that the tree authority did not take dissenting views of its independent expert members into consideration and also its resolution did not contain reasons for overruling his objections. The PIL is posted for hearing on September 17.

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