Image: Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
On Friday, the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions against the felling of 2,600 trees at Aarey Colony, to make way for a Mumbai Metro shed at the site. The HC did not decide the issue of whether Aarey is a forest or a flood plain. The HC dismissed the petitions with a direction to the petitioner to approach the Supreme Court, as the SC was seized of a similar matter. Thousands of citizens have opposed this move, and demanded the relocation of the Mumbai Metro depot, which is part of the Metro III project.
Aarey Colony, known as the green lungs of Mumbai, has more than 5 lakh trees.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing the petitions, filed against Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Tree Authority’s bid to chop 2,646 trees, nd to protect the flood plain of Mithi river, including one by city-based NGO Vanashakti, asking to declare the land a forest. On September 20, the state government had also said that the area should not be called a forest.
September saw the height of citizen protests, as every Sunday of the month, thousands came out to protest against the Metro car shed and form a human chain. From senior citizens to children, Mumbaikars participated in the protests even through heavy downpour, shouting slogans and carrying posters. By dismissing the pleas, the Bombay HC has disappointed many citizens.
“A couple of important things to keep in mind,” says environment activist Zoru Bathena. “The 15-day period to cut Aarey trees starts only once BMC uploads the tree cutting permission on their website as per three High Court orders. Till date, the permission has not been uploaded on the website. If any tree is cut 15 days before that, we will move HC again.”
“The Supreme Court is closed from October 7 to 13, and we can move SC only on October 14. The 15 days website permission clause is sufficient for now. We live in hope,” he adds.