Mumbai Metro Rail Corp Ltd (MMRC) on Monday said that no more trees will be axed in Aarey Colony for the construction of a car shed and depot. However, clearing of already felled trees along with subsequent construction activities will be carried out as usual. “Following the decision of High Court on October 4 upholding permission of Tree Authority the felling of 2,185 trees was undertaken on October 4 and 5, 2019 and as on date 2,141 trees have been felled. These will be cleared from site and subsequent construction activities will be carried out,” MMRC was quoted as saying by ANI.
Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court restrained authorities from cutting any more trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony for a Metro car shed. The order for status quo was given by a bench specially constituted after the apex court took suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a letter petition addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by law student Rishav Ranjan seeking a stay on felling of trees in the colony. The apex court is on a week-long Dussehra break from Monday.
The court said its forest bench would take up the matter for further hearing on October 21.
The Bombay High Court on October 4 refused to declare Aarey colony a forest and declined to quash the Mumbai municipal corporation’s decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a Metro car shed. The felling of trees in the colony has been opposed by green activists and local residents.
The Mumbai Metro started cutting the trees from Friday night to make way for the car shed triggering angry protests, hours after the high court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision.
As many as 29 protesters were arrested for allegedly obstructing and assaulting police personnel during the felling of trees. They were released from jail in the wee hours of Monday after being granted bail by a local court, officials said.
The apex court said it would have to examine as to whether the entire Aarey area was a forest area or eco-sensitive zone and asked the authorities to place on record the relevant notifications and status of sampling of trees planted by them. Aarey forest is located adjacent to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and has five lakh trees, according to the letter petition.
However, MMRC officials have defended tree felling by contending that it is restricted only to a small area in Aarey Colon and is necessary to ensure a modern transport system for Mumbaikars.