The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has revealed that 5,012 trees — three times the original estimate — will be cut or transplanted for the construction of Metro III project.
The information was made public by MMRCL after they responded to a right to information (RTI) application on Wednesday, filed by Khar resident Zoru Bhathena.
MMRCL said that 1,331 trees will be cut while 3,681 will be transplanted. This is almost three times the original estimate by Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), which in its environment assessment report in 2013, had said that of the 1,745 total trees to be affected, 673 were to be hacked and 1,072 were to be transplanted.
The latest data suggested that trees will be transplanted at three sites – Aarey Colony, near a Dargah at Mysore Colony monorail station, Mahul village, Trombay.
“It is shocking that the number of trees to be affected is three times the original number. We all know that the success rate of transplantations is abysmal in the city and they can be considered as good as dead,” said Bhathena adding, “MMRCL has still not mentioned the trees that will be affected for metro sheds at Cuffe Parade and near World Trade Centre, south Mumbai.”
MMRCL officials confirmed that 5,012 trees had been sanctioned for the project by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s garden department and that the number was final number. “This number will not change and MMRCL will personally overlook the whole transplantation process. We will leave nothing to the contractors employed,” said R Ramana, executive director (planning), MMRCL. “The EIA report was based on the detailed project report (DPR) from 2012. At the point of time, certain project plans were prepared. After that, when the project report was sent to the central and state government for approvals, the number of stations increased.”
He explained why there had been an increase in the number tree numbers in five years. “Based on the surveys conducted in 2012, there may be more trees that may have come under the category allotted for each station or shed. In five years, many small plants would have grown into trees,” said Ramana. “Five years ago, the assessment was based on MMRDA and the EIA team’s findings but now it is based on the civic body’s tree authority’s findings, which is the final and competent authority.”
According to MMRCL, 19 of 26 stations will be constructed through the cut and cover method - excavating a trench in the ground and then backfilling and restoring the original roadway used to construct a tunnel and remaining seven stations will be constructed through partial cut method.
Environmentalists, botanists raise concern over tree transplantation
In 2015, NGO Vanashakti identified a number of trees from the MMRDA’s BKC-Chunabhatti connector project site that were transplanted at Aarey Colony. According to the complaint, no pits were dug, no organic fertilisers or water was used. An earthmover removed the mud and the tree was dumped into the pit and covered with mud and stones
“There is nothing to show for earlier efforts when it comes to tree transplantation. It is a failed exercise; MMRCL and other agencies should stop using the word transplant in any of their submissions,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.
Botanists have said exposure of roots for prolonged hours can reduce the chance of a transplanted trees survival. “After being uprooted, trees need to be planted immediately. During the process of removing a tree, the roots should have enough soil bound to them. Also, the roots should be covered with a wet cloth, so that enough water can still seep in,” said Marselin Almeida, a botanist.
How MMRCL plans to construct the metro stations?
• Cut and cover method (C&C) which includes excavating a trench in the ground and then backfilling and restoring the original roadway used to construct a tunnel.
• Partial cut method using New Austrian Tunnelling method (NATM), which is an underground tunneling technique.
According to MMRCL, the metro stations under cut and cover method would be the size of nearly two football grounds. “We will open up the entire trench and build the station from underground to upper layers. There will be a six metre soil cover over the station. However, under NATM, a very small area through open cut technique would be excavated underground, which will save as much open spaces and trees,” said R Ramana, executive director (planning), MMRCL
To be affected
• 2,298 trees to be affected for car depot construction at Aarey Colony, Goregaon
• 19 trees to be affected for launching shaft at Pali ground, Marol, Andheri (East)
• 49 trees for casting yard along Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road at Aarey Colony, Goregaon
• Survey in progress for launching shaft and ramp at Sariput Nagar, Andheri (East)