Mumbai: Another round of a tense and high-pitched battle between Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) officials and environmental activists is likely to unfold soon on the Aarey Milk Colony Metro car depot issue.
This time around, the trigger is MMRC’s application in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking a directive to get approval from the civic body’s Tree Authority on its 2019 application to cut 84 fully grown trees.
Activists angry over tree felling
According to Stalin D of Vanashakti, the environmental NGO is opposing the cutting of trees at Aarey Milk Colony. In 2019, the MMRC, in a statement to the apex court, said that all the trees required to be cut for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro corridor were axed and no more trees are to be impacted by the project. “Why did they submit this and why did they lie or hide that more trees are required to be removed from the car depot location?” questioned Mr Stalin.
If the environmentalists are to be believed, the real purpose is to cover up the illegal cutting done in the last three months inside the car depot plot at Aarey Milk Colony. “The truth is they need to remove at least 700-800 more trees. Once you lie then you need to invent a hundred lies. They have done exactly that,” alleged Mr Stalin alleged.
On the other hand, MMRC officials have a different take, claiming that the 84 trees in question for which an application has been filed recently in the SC are not a fresh set realised only in 2022. “This is the same matter where Vanashakti and others have filed a Special Leave Petition pending before SC in 2019. The matter was listed but not heard for the last three to four months. As the matter is not coming up for hearing we have moved an application seeking direction to the Tree Authority to process our pending application. Since February 2019, our application has been pending before the Tree Authority, which is other than the main application for 2,400 trees,” explained an official. As MMRC’s application was pending approval before the Tree Authority since 2019, the official emphasised that it was never hidden and the NGO could have checked the records.
The MMRC has set a December 2023 deadline to commission the line between Aarey Colony and Bandra Kurla Complex, and a deadline of July 2024 for the entire 33.5km route.