Supreme Court halts Aarey massacre, but only 44 trees are left

Updated: Oct 08, 2019, 07:27 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

Supreme Court tells authorities to maintain status quo, but activists lament that intervention is too little too late

Workers clear the Metro car shed site after over 2,000 trees were felled in Aarey colony. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Workers clear the Metro car shed site after over 2,000 trees were felled in Aarey colony. Pic/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited had already finished chopping down more than 2,000 trees by the time Supreme Court's order came on Monday staying any further felling of trees in Aarey for the Metro car shed. The MMRCL said it has axed 2,141 trees, and will abide by the SC's order and won't touch the remaining 44. However, construction work on the site will go on, it added.

The MMRCL, which remained mum on the protests against the tree felling in Aarey, issued a press release after the apex court's order, saying they have stopped further axing of trees but they will continue with other activities for the construction of Metro car shed on the site.

"We respect the order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court passed on Monday. No future tree felling activity at the car shed site in Aarey Milk Colony will be undertaken," an MMRCL spokesperson said in an official statement. "With the permission of the Tree Authority, the felling of 2,185 trees was undertaken on October 4 and 5 and as on date, 2,141 trees have been felled. These will be cleared from the site and subsequent construction activities will be carried out," the statement read.

Pratibha Bhoir
Pratibha Bhoir

The MMRCL also stressed that they plan to finish the project within the deadline. "The work on the project has already been delayed by over six months on account of legal and other impediments. We still expect to meet the deadline," the statement read. Aiming to highlight its green initiatives to compensate for the loss of green cover in Aarey, the MMRCL said in the statement, "As of today, MMRCL has already planted 23,846 trees and distributed additional 25,000 saplings." 

'Sec 144 was still in place'

Soon after the Supreme Court's verdict came in, nature lovers of the city gathered in Aarey, but to their dismay Section 144, which was imposed on Saturday following protests from activists, was still in place and heavy police bandobast prevented them from entering the site.

Aarey car shed site after felling of 2,141 trees. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The police opened the main Aarey road near the picnic point for traffic only around 5.30 pm. This reporter visited a tribal hamlet at Navapada and spotted, from the hillock, a few people inside the car shed site. Although mid-day did not see any tree-felling incident there, people were seen inspecting the trees and taking pictures.

City raised Rs 2.3L for jailed activists

Following the arrest of several climate activists, who were protesting the tree felling in the green zone of Aarey, Aarey Conservation Group started a crowd funding campaign online to secure their release. The group raised more than Rs 2.3 lakh, donated by several Mumbaikars who stood by their movement, in less than 12 hours, said Rohit Joshi of the group. As all the 29 arrested activists, locals and youth were released on a personal bond of R7,000 each on Sunday, the Aarey Conservation Group has decided to give the bond amount to each one of them.

Better late than never: activists on SC stay

Workers at the car shed site on Monday evening

The environment activists have hailed the apex court decision and hope that the final decision will be in the favour of the nature.

Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena said, "Very happy that the Supreme Court has agreed with the severity of the issue and has decided to give it a final hearing. For the past several years, we have been trying to get this issue heard and decided. Better late than never."

Aarey Conservation Group member Stalin D said, "It's a relief.

MMRCL very slyly and cleverly undertook the activities of tree felling on a Friday night. We are thankful that the judiciary took up the issue and has placed the matter before the forest bench. The SC also clearly ordered the release of arrested citizens and students. However, MMRCL seems defiant and continues to destroy the land. But citizens' struggle will continue."

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No more trees to be axed in Aarey until October 21, says Supreme Court

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