Mumbai: Not just Aarey, 73 trees in Churchgate to face the axe effect

The lush green foliage on J Tata Road will have to make way for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro Line III; this is what Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation officials announced in a meeting last week, causing an uproar among residents

Mumbai Metro will have to result in the death of 73 trees in south Mumbai at least, that is what the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has decided. The MMRC informed the federation committee of the A ward of their decision to do so, sparking protests.

Some of the trees that will have to make way for the Metro III line. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Some of the trees that will have to make way for the Metro III line. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

MMRC officials met local residents and members of the committee on March 6. The organisation announced that it would cut 73 trees near Churchgate on J Tata Road to clear the path for the proposed Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro Line III. MMRC said it had applied to the Tree Authority to go ahead with the plan.

Nina Verma (75), who is planning a peaceful protest with college students
Nina Verma (75), who is planning a peaceful protest with college students

This led to an uproar from local residents, who categorically objected to this plan. Nina Verma, a 75-year-old local resident of J Tata Road and an active member of the committee, said, “I have seen these trees since birth. They not only add to the aesthetic beauty of the area, but also keep it cool and give us peace.

Tree species on J Tata Road include gulmohar, peepal, coconut palms, siris, banyan and neem
Tree species on J Tata Road include gulmohar, peepal, coconut palms, siris, banyan and neem

Once they are chopped, we will never get them back. It will be a huge irreversible loss to the ecosystem.” Verma is leading the efforts to save the trees and plans a peaceful protest by involving college students.

Fighting it out
The species of trees are gulmohar, peepal, coconut palms, siris, banyan and neem. Residents of south Mumbai have been writing to MMRC regarding this issue since December last year, and they received the first reply in January.

A small meeting of individual societies was convened, but after residents demanded a ward-level meeting to know of the planned developments, the March 6 meeting was announced.

Ruchir Bansal, who himself fought to save trees that were set to be cut for widening Maharshi Karve Road, asked MMRC officials in the meeting the exact number of trees that would have to go for the Metro line. 73 was the answer.

Another resident, Marge Gubbay, a resident of Prem Court building in the area, added, “Besides the environmental impact, we also fear for our own safety.

There are many residential buildings that are nearly 70 years old. The authority has plans to make three underpasses at the J Tata Circle (opposite Samrat Hotel). How will these age-old buildings bear so much of drilling work?

The authorities should relocate the line and utilise open spaces in the area in order to avoid cutting trees as well as any harm to the old buildings.” She further added, “We want a third party to assess the project well before any work commences, in order to be fully assured about the project that seeks to change the look and peace of our area.”

Meanwhile, Cuffe Parade residents alleged the actual number of trees affected in their area would be humongous, since the proposed Cuffe Parade station is set to be built under Colaba Woods, a huge garden with nearly 500 trees.

“Suggestions were also given to the MMRC, as all these 73 trees could be saved if the last three stops (Churchgate, Vidhan Bhavan, Cuffe Parade) are connected via a coastal route, the cost of which is less than one-fourth the current plan. This should be viable as the distance from the sea coast to the last three proposed stations is less than 500 metres,” he added.

According to the MMRDA’s own Environment Impact Assessment report, 589 trees will have to be felled on the entire Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line, which will reduce oxygen production by about 32,977 kg. The same report says the MMRDA will plant more than 1,000 trees to compensate for the loss.

Authority speak
Ashwini Bhide, managing director, MMRC, confirmed the public hearing took place on March 6. “Churchgate station itself will be affecting 73 trees,” she said. Niranjan Shetty, a member of the BMC’s Tree Authority, without whose permission no tree can be chopped, said, “I am unaware about this plan as I wasn’t in the city.

The CM had announced that a committee would monitor the Metro Line III project. We will take this matter up after this committee comes out with its ideas and opinions. MMRC cannot go ahead with any activities before this panel submits its report.”

Vijay Hire, superintendent, civic Garden department, said he would get the details of the exact number of trees which will be affected by Metro Line III today.

Expert speak
Anand Pendharkar, who runs SPROUTS, an NGO, said, “Why do non-living structures get more importance than living heritage? Could they think of doing this to any religious places of heritage? Trees give us joy and support habitat.

The authority claims they will plant many more trees than lost, but they don’t have the expertise to plant indigenous species.

These trees which the authorities will plant will only be a few years old and cannot compensate for 70-year-old trees on which birds have made nests. These birds’ homes will be destroyed. Urban ecosystem is being rigorously compromised, which is not acceptable at all.”

Number of trees that will be chopped for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro line, as per MMRDA’s Environmental Impact Assessment report

32,977 kg
Reduction in oxygen production due to these trees getting chopped

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