After months of debate on the issue, the Tree Authority unanimously rejected the plan to fell 2,298 trees for the Metro III car depot; members said the plan wasn’t detailed enough
After months of mounting pressure from environmental activists and citizens, the BMC yesterday rejected the proposal to cut down 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony that were to make space for the car shed of the Metro line III (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz corridor). In fact, each and every member of the Tree Authority — across all political parties — unanimously rejected the plan, asking for a more detailed presentation on how the authorities plan to compensate for the trees that will be removed.
Aarey Colony’s green cover is already at risk, with the BMC planning to cut nearly 1,000 trees to make way for the four-lane Goregaon-Mulund Link Road. File pic
Not only did they demand more information on this, the members also demanded to visit the site themselves, since they feared that the MMRDA would not replant trees properly as was witnessed in the case of Metro line I (Versova-Ghatkopar).
According to Nandu Vichare, a member of the Tree Authority, during the construction of Metro line I, the MMRDA had promised that they were going to replant trees which were cut down, but there is no information about any such replantation.
As far as Metro III is concerned, the authorities were to transplant 2,044 of the 2,298 trees.
A 3.6-hectare plot near Marol-Maroshi has already been proposed for this purpose, and Rs 3.55 crore has been allocated for the transplantation work.
“We refused to pass the proposal unless we are satisfied with the replantation plan. I also suggested that the civic body should find an alternate location for the car shed, since there are very few green spaces left in the city,” Vichare said.
Another official, Niranjan Shetty said, “After our objections, the commissioner assured us that the MMRC (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation) would make arrangements for a presentation about how they are going to replant the removed trees and plant new trees as well. If we are not satisfied, we will go for a site inspection.”
'Will give details'
MMRC officials will now be given 10 days to make a fresh presentation to the Tree Authority, along with detailed plans of the transplantation, said Vijay Hire, the Garden department’s superintendent.
An official from (MMRC) said, “We will soon prepare a more detailed presentation in which we will explain about the trees that will be cut in Aarey, how we are going to transplant them, and also plant new trees.”
Activists from the group, Save Aarey Milk Colony, have been voicing objections to the car shed proposal for months now, and yesterday, this paper reported that the group had appealed to citizens to call and text the authorities with their objections as well (‘Activists appeal to citizens to protest against felling of over 2,000 trees’).
On Monday, a few of the activists also met BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte to explain their reservations about the plans. “We met the municipal commissioner and explained that the proposal should not be allowed. We are happier for the fact that the Tree Authority officials opposed it as well. Our demand is only that the car depot should be shifted to another location, because we don’t want the biodiversity of Aarey Colony to get affected,” said Manish Sethi, an active member from the group.
The activists also carried banners and distributed pamphlets on the issue at the BMC headquarters. However, in the days to come, the group intends to get larger support from not just citizens, but also politicians.
After writing to CM Devendra Fadnavis, the group will now also attempt to meet him to discuss the matter. Similarly, they have also written to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is funding the Metro III project.
The car depot
The car shed is an important aspect of the Metro line III project. MMRDA has plans to construct the car depot on a 30-hectare plot in Aarey Colony, for which a contract was awarded to the contractor, R K Madhani, last year. The Rs 130-crore depot is likely to be completed in the next two years once the actual work begins. However, if the location is changed, this could push the entire project behind by a year.
The 'Giving Tree'
The Save Aarey Milk Colony group is now taking their struggle to the Kala Ghoda Festival, where they will present the play 'Giving Tree’ in collaboration with the theatre group, Fight Back. The street play will be staged on February 15 at 5.30 pm.