As the Metro 3 construction, and along with it, rampant tree-axing picks pace, mid-day takes a deep dive into what it really means for Mumbai’s green lungs
Issues plaguing the Metro 3 construction
Apart from the controversy over the Aarey Car Depot in the area, which requires the chopping of around 3,000 trees, there is the issue of transplanting trees safely. According to green activists, the MMRC had presented a document in court claiming that to take proper care, they will appoint an arborist from Singapore. However, an RTI query revealed that MMRC had already started tree plantation in the expert’s absence.
The trouble with NGT and HC
In April 2015, green activists had approached the National Green Tribunal demanding that no tree cutting or further development in Aarey be permitted, as it will have a negative impact on the biodiversity of the area. Then earlier this year, citizens also filed a PIL in the Bombay HC over the cutting of trees along the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro alignment. In May, however, the HC vacated the stay, saying, “If a harsh stance as sought by the petitioners is taken, then it would be impossible to achieve development.”
The loss of heritage
In mid-May, tree-cutting commenced aggressively in the old south Mumbai areas of Colaba, Fort, Churchgate and Hutatma Chowk, the few of the remaining green areas of Mumbai, that also house heritage trees. For the last few weeks, men with motorised hacksaws have been taking down regal gulmohar and banyan trees, including the landmark centuries-old banyan tree next to Siddhivinayak Temple.
The plan for transplantation
For the transplantation of the trees affected due to the Dahisar East-Andheri East and Dahisar East to DN Nagar Metro line, some trees have been planted at Aarey Milk Colony and an agency has reportedly been appointed to look after the trees that have been transplanted. A water tank, too, has been kept near the transplanted trees for the summer. Additionally, in May, the MMRC, along with an SGNP team, visited a 25-hectare degraded forest patch close to the Film City in Borivli that they claim can be used for the re-plantation of trees removed for Metro 3.
Lessons from Delhi Metro
Reports suggested that for the construction of Delhi Metro, as many as 48,200 trees were cut by the DMRC. It came to light when the Delhi HC asked authorities to present detailed affidavits after allegations that one lakh trees had been cut without replanting to make up for the loss. The order gained significance because it was believed that the “magnitude” of chopping led to higher pollution level in the capital.