The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) said it has been asked by the city’s civic body to spare 1,090 trees that were among the 3,891 to be cut or transplanted to make way for construction of the Colaba to SEEPZ (Metro 3) line.
Officials from MMRCL said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s tree authority has allowed them to axe 1,074 trees and transplant 1,727 trees. MMRCL’s original proposal to the department sought permission to cut 3,891 trees along the project’s alignment. The corporation has not sought permission for trees to be affected at Aarey colony for the Metro car shed yet because the matter is being heard in the National Green Tribunal.
HT had reported on January 13 that 5,012 trees are likely to be affected by the project, including 2,598 — 254 to be cut and 2,044 transplanted — at Aarey Colony, Goregaon, after Khar resident Zoru Bhathena received an RTI response from MMRCL. The corporation said the information received through RTI is incorrect because they are yet to seek permission to cut trees at Aarey.
“We received intimation from the tree department to safeguard 1,090 trees because they are along the boundaries of proposed stations and there is an additional effort required by our contractors to save them. As of now, 2,811 trees are likely be affected, according to the official figures for the project,” said R Ramana, executive director (planning), MMRCL.
On December 19, the NGT Pune bench passed an interim order implementing a stay on all construction at Aarey Colony, including the construction of Metro III car-shed by MMRCL on 30 hectares, until the final hearing on February 17. The tribunal was hearing a petition filed in 2015 by environment groups Vanashakti and Aarey Conservation Group (ACG, seeking protection of the Aarey landscape and maintaining it as a no-development zone.
Deeply saddened by MMRCL’s response: Petitioners
The petitioners who have approached the Bombay High Court (HC) on various matters regarding the Metro 3 project, said they were disappointed after meeting MMRCL officials on Wednesday.
“MMRCL said that minor changes in plan might save just a small number of trees, but nothing major can be done. Since the Metro 3 will have an underground tunnel, there was no other way to implement the project but without cutting or removing trees,” said Zoru Bhathena. “We were deeply saddened by their response. However, we presume they will make the same statement at HC on February 17.”
On Tuesday, chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured citizens that maximum number of trees will be protected during the Metro 3 project construction and asked MMRCL to constitute a committee along with petitioners to look into the issue and make sure that minimal number of trees is cut for the project
“The petitioners will not be included in the internal committee since it is our own panel of experts. What they are asking for is not possible to be done,” said Ramana. “However, the process of reducing the number of trees to be cut as per CM’s promise will be done till the last day of execution. We will closely monitor which trees are being cut, see whether it is essential or not and also take input from locals before any such activity.”