‘Number of trees to be cut for car shed went up from 252 to 2,646 in five years’

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Published on Oct 01, 2019 12:24 AM IST
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ByK A Y Dodhiya, Mumbai

Petitioners opposing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation-appointed (BMC) tree authority’s decision to allow the cutting and transplantation of around 2,700 trees for the Metro car-shed at Aarey Colony told the Bombay high court (HC) that the proposed number of trees to be cut increased ten-fold since 2014.

According to the petitioner, activist Zoru Bhathena, in 2014, the Mumbai Metropolitan Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) had proposed to cut only 252 trees and transplant 2,238. However, the number almost reversed in the current proposal —2,646 trees to be cut and 421, transplanted.

Senior advocate Janak Dwarkadas for Bhathena informed a bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Bharati Dangre, that it was impossible for so many trees to grow over the same 33-acre land where the Metro car shed was proposed. Dwarkadas submitted that this discrepancy raised doubts about the initial figure of trees to be cut.

He then submitted that since 2014, the tree authority, in connivance with the MMRCL, had reversed the number of trees that need to be cut and transplanted. The basis for the reversal, as per the minutes of the tree authority meeting, was that some of the trees that could be transplanted would not serve any purpose to the tribals and hence could be cut.

Dwarkadas then referred to the tree authority meeting held in August and said that though a 19-member committee consisting of 13 corporators, five experts and the municipal commissioner had visited the site as per HC directions, the suggestions of the experts on the issue of preservation were not taken into consideration. While the remaining experts had sought more time to comment on the tree cutting, the tree authority did not oblige and held a vote, participated in by 11 corporators and three experts. As eight voted for cutting the trees and six voted against it, the tree authority permitted the MMRCL to go ahead with cutting the trees.

In light of these submissions, Dwarkadas sought a stay on the decision of the tree authority, which is expected to respond to the allegations on Tuesday.

The court observed that one of the problems was deciding on the cutting of trees, as the state had not declared the 33-acre land as forest area.

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