Decisions related to Aarey were taken in haste, says co-expert

Updated: Sep 01, 2019, 07:30 IST | Chetna Sadadekar, Ranjeet Jadhav |

Two experts from committee facing flak for having given their nod to Metro car shed resigned on Saturday saying they weren't allowed to do their jobs

A young child participating in a Save Aarey campaign in 2018
A young child participating in a Save Aarey campaign in 2018

The row over cutting of trees at Aarey over the Metro carshed continues: two experts from the tree authority committee, who voted in favour of the proposal, thus approving uprooting of 2,646 trees, resigned on Saturday. The experts claimed that had they known their entering the committee would mean this debacle, they would never have joined it. Aarey Colony is one of the largest green belts in the city.

Also Read: Tree Authority asks BMC officials to file FIR against MMRCL

What happened last week

A proposal for uprooting 2,646 trees in Aarey for the construction of Metro III car shed was passed on Thursday by the Tree Authority (TA) committee at its meeting. The proposal was opposed by the Shiv Sena, but BJP, NCP and tree experts voted for the proposal while members of the Congress walked out without casting a vote. The controversy broke out after the three experts on the panel too voted in favour of the proposal. There are 18 members in the tree authority, six from Shiv Sena, four from BJP, two from Congress, one from NCP and five tree experts. The experts were appointed in the last meeting after a battle in the high court.

Upset that due procedures were not followed and that they were being continuously hounded by activists and allegations, , Dr Sashi Rekha Iyer, a botanist at Mithibai College, and Dr Chandrakant Salunkhe, Head of horticulture at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, resigned over email. They added that they didn't want to be blamed in future over other such tree cutting/uprooting proposals. Soon after the proposal was approved, the Shiv Sena on Friday alleged that money had changed hands over the Aarey tree cutting proposal. The standing committee chairman and Shiv Sena corporator who is also a tree authority committee member, Yashwant Jadhav had alleged that a financial deal took place between the Metro line III (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) constructing agency and tree authority experts.

Dr Sashi Rekha Iyer
Dr Sashi Rekha Iyer

The Saturday update

Dr Sashi Rekha Iyer, stated in an email issued to the tree authority chairman, also BMC Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, "Since the time of my nomination to the Committee, no due process has been followed for the assessment of the site and decisions have been taken in haste. As an expert, I have been allowed to visit some limited portions of the site in question only twice, which is not sufficient time to make a decision regarding such an issue. My co-experts and I have also pointed out the discrepancies in the inventory provided to us, in a report submitted to the Municipal Secretary, MCGM Mumbai on 13 August 2019. Most of our recommendations on the issue have not been considered by the Committee while making the decision. I wish to clearly and strongly state that I have never recommended the felling of 2,700 trees and I do not endorse the decision in any way. I have decided, with great regret to resign from the committee as an expert member by rendering my resignation to MCGM."

Also Read: Mumbai: BMC approves proposal to uproot 2,646 trees in Aarey

While speaking to mid-day, Salunkhe said, "We don't want to be dragged in to this political spectacle as we are academicians and don't want to engage in politics. We are being blamed for tree cutting in Aarey, whereas our role was never defined and we did not know that we had to vote and that raising of hand would mean this. We have given our observations. If those were followed, it would not have been a problem. But our suggestions were considered only partially. We do not want to be a part of this authority if it will affect our family lives as well. We were told to study the site, which we did and gave our suggestions. Had I known that my joining a social cause and working for the tree authority, along with my regular job would end up like this, I would never have joined it and thus, we (Iyer and I) decided not to be a part of this team." MNS chief Raj Thackeray who has been vocal about saving Aarey, on Saturday, joined forces with the Save Aarey movement along with wife Sharmila Thackeray.

Also Read: Mumbai: Row over cutting of 2,646 Aarey trees escalates

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