Mumbai: MMRC planted saplings at Aarey for a publicity stunt, say experts

Experts claim that the MMRC only planted saplings at the Metro III site in Aarey Colony to generate a pro-environment image for itself; said the saplings would probably not survive, as they had been planted too close

Under fire for its plans to axe nearly 2,300 trees and endanger the wildlife in Aarey Colony for the Metro line III, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) last month attempted to quell the controversy by planting a few saplings at the proposed site for the Metro car depot.

On February 27, MMRC Chairman Ashwini Bhide and a few other officials visited the Metro car shed site at Aarey Colony to plant a few saplings there. File pic
On February 27, MMRC Chairman Ashwini Bhide and a few other officials visited the Metro car shed site at Aarey Colony to plant a few saplings there. File pic

However, it seems this effort to go green could well leave the authorities red-faced, after experts pointed out that the saplings will probably not survive as they had been placed too close together. This, the activists claimed, is evidence that the Metro authorities do not care about trees or the environment, and that the saplings were planted simply as a gimmick to project MMRC as pro-environment.

A little over a week ago, on February 27, MMRC Chairman Ashwini Bhide and a few other officials had visited the Metro yard site at Aarey Milk Colony and planted a few saplings on one section of the plot. A few days later, on March 3, environmentalist Anand Pendharkar and AAP member Mona Ambegaonkar also visited the site and found that the saplings had been planted too close to each other (see box).

Renee Vyas, a naturalist who conducts tree walks in Aarey Colony, is also of the opinion that the saplings should have been planted at a proper distance from each other, but the authorities ignored this requirement. “The saplings planted at the car depot site were not properly planted, as the authorities planted them too close to each other.

Except Bixa orellana, all are huge trees and the distance between two trees should be not less than 40 feet,” said Renee. While the fate of the planted saplings is under question, other saplings that the MMRC had kept on one side of the plot are yet to be planted and are already wilting.

“At the car depot site, the MMRC has kept other saplings that it plans to plant in the future, but those saplings are also drying up. This proves that MMRC is least concerned about trees. If the authorities cannot protect the saplings that they have brought for plantation themselves, then I doubt if they will really protect the trees that are to be replanted,” said Imran U, a local resident and a nature lover.

He added, “First MMRC damaged the beautiful grassland, which is home to many wildlife species, and then they planted the saplings in order to portray themselves as pro-environment. But this was nothing but a publicity stunt.”

Trees they planted
>> Bixa orellana (Shendri), an exotic species native to tropical America
>> Tanebuia Rosea (Trumpet) from Brazil
>> Swietenia mahagoni (Mahogany) from Africa
>> Mango and Neolamarckia cadamba (Kadam) from Konkan
Apart from Bixa orellana, all other species grow into huge trees, and the distance between any two saplings should not have been less than 40 feet, said experts.

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