Regional News

Won’t cut Aarey trees in hurry: MMRC

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) on Tuesday assured the Bombay high court (HC) that it will not cut or transplant any of the 2,646 trees from Aarey Colony for construction of Metro-3 car shed till the HC decides on the pleas challenging the decision of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) tree authority.

One of the petitions is filed by Zoru Bhathena, challenging the tree authority’s decision of August 29 to fell 2,646 trees – cut 2,185 and transplant 461 trees – to make way for the Metro car shed. After a division bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Bharati Dangre posted the petitions for further hearing on September 30, Bhathena’s counsel, senior advocate Janak Dwarkadas, pointed out the tree authority has issued a formal order permitting the MMRC to fell trees after September 28, when the 15-day appeal period ends. Dwarkadas urged the court to pass an interim order staying the tree cutting.

During the hearing, chief justice said he may visit the area in order to get exact idea of the topography, instead of referring to online images. The bench also heard biodiversity expert Anand Pendharkar of NGO SPROUTS. He described the biodiversity of Aarey Colony and listed major flora and fauna found there.

Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who represented the MMRC, responded saying they were not in a hurry, assuring that the trees will not be cut till the HC decision. Bhathena has contended that 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 of the MMRC for removal of 2,702 trees – cutting 2,238 trees and transplanting 464 trees.

Accordingly, he submitted his objections to the proposal raising 14 points. On July 8, the tree officer conducted a public hearing, where approximately 500 citizens once again raised their objections, but none of the objections were taken into consideration, he alleged. Bhathena has also taken strong objection to the fact that the authority did not take dissenting views of its expert members into consideration. On Tuesday, the court also directed the BMC and MMRC to respond to another PIL filed by Bhathena, challenging the same decision on the grounds that Aarey Colony is a floodplain of Mithi river, and a petition filed by Yashwant Jadhav, a tree authority member, that claimed the minutes of the August 29 meeting of the tree authority did not reflect facts.

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