The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday that it would have to hack around 500 trees at Aarey Colony to set up the proposed car depot for Metro phase 3.
It had filed an intervention application a fortnight ago against an interim order passed by the NGT, which put a ban on construction activities at Aarey Colony.
The interim order was passed following a petition by Vanashakti and Aarey Conservation Group (ACG). Three months ago, the NGOs had filed a petition seeking long-term protection for the Aarey landscape and to keep it a no-development zone.
The fresh intervention plea heard before a bench of justice VR Kingaonkar and Justice Ajay Deshpande on Monday stated that the MMRCL urgently needed to hack 500 trees in one of the city’s green lungs as per recommendations from their six-member committee report.
The bench will hear the case on December 1.
“The petitioner sought more time to read the affidavit (submitted by MMRCL) so the NGT bench postponed the hearing to December 1. We need a small piece of land at Aarey Colony for a stabling yard or car depot, which may affect 500 trees. We are going to carry out compensatory tree plantation as per the law,” said a senior MMRCL official, requesting anonymity.
The affidavit said Aarey was not a forest land.
“It is not correct that Aarey land is vast grassland and dense forest. It is simply a stretch of government-owned land,” read the affidavit.
MMRCL has maintained that Aarey is the only site where the car shed can come up and that they reserve the right to ask for more land if needed.
“There is no alternative for the use of a minimum of 20.52 hectares of land at Aarey Colony for the construction of car depot,” read the affidavit.
The petitioners slammed the MMRCL’s demand.
“Citizens of Mumbai are being taken for a ride by the MMRCL. There is proof of existence of a large biodiversity. Lies are being pandered in their response to the government and the public,” said Anand Pendharkar, member, ACG.