A non-government organisation has filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay high courts seeking an order restraining the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) from cutting 3,000 trees along the Shirsha Phata Ambadi Road in Thane district for a road widening project.
According to the petition, felling the trees violates environment and forest rules and hence would have “an irreversible and deleterious impact” on the sanctity of the area.
The NGO, Vanashakti, in its petition states that the free land around the road could be used for widening roads without felling the trees.
It adds that the planning agency has not undertaken an environment impact assessment for the 20-km road widening project even though a 2-km stretch passes through the vicinity of the Tungareshwar and Tansa wildlife sanctuaries.
The two sanctuaries fall under the proposed buffer zone submitted by the state’s forest department to the Union environment ministry.
“The plan has no arrangement to facilitate the movement of wild animals between the sanctuaries,” the petition said, pointing out that man-animal conflicts would rise with the increase in traffic on the stretch.
In March, HT had reported that 3,027 mature trees would be felled to create two more lanes on the existing two-lane road connecting the national highways to Nashik, Pune and Gujarat. This will mean uprooting 150 trees for each kilometre of the road.
“Prevention of floods and soil erosion is possible only because of large, strong trees that hold the soil in place,” the NGO has said.
According to the petition, neither has MMRDA taken permission to fell trees for a part of the road that falls under the Bhiwandi Municipal Corporation, nor sought permission from the tree authority of the respective civic bodies.
“Transplantation and replantation of trees is not a feasible solution… One cannot simply replace these age-old, precious trees with saplings that cannot be guaranteed to survive,” read the petition.