Aarey issue: city vests hope in Bombay HC

The city waits with bated breath for the Bombay High Court (HC) to decide, on September 17, the fate of 2,646 trees at Aarey colony. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has decided to cut the trees to make place for the Metro car shed, and protestors have moved the HC for a solution in the matter.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not yet conveyed the decision taken at the Tree Authority meeting (where it was decided to cut the trees) to the MMRCL, and officers said they will wait until the hearing next week. The BMC has decided to wait until the hearing to send the final permission to the MMRCL, even though there is no stay order. The minutes of the meeting are ready but the final permission is yet to be conveyed. “We will wait for the court directive before giving the final permission,” said BMC commissioner Praveen Pardeshi.

The Hindu reached out to the two nominated experts with the Tree Authority, Dr. Manohar Sawant and Dr. Deepak Apte, who were absent on the day of voting. Absent members have the right to demand reopening of a proposal, but both the members said they have not asked for it.

The HC, then, is the protestors’ only hope, although they have kept up the social media blitzkrieg on Tuesday and will continue with the silent protests. Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena continued his offensive on Twitter on Tuesday, stating that Aarey is contiguous to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. “Please do find enclosed the DP plan of Mumbai with Aarey in green with the hatched [chequered] line and SGNP in two shades of green without hatched lines. Is Aarey not a contiguous stretch of land with SGNP, Ms. Bhide?” he tweeted. A silent protest will be held at 4 p.m on Friday outside the MMRCL office at Bandra Kurla Complex.

On September 9, MMRCL MD Ashwini Bhide had tweeted another map of the region, which shows the site of the proposed Metro car depot. The @MumbaiMetro3 Twitter handle has also been tweeting in the matter with their campaign, #AareyAikaNa.

On the controversy surrounding the issue, Mr. Pardeshi said, “If you have public transport, not only does it give citizens greater ownership over their city, it bridges class divide, cuts carbon footprint, helps decongest city. Metro actually equalises prices of land... Land in South Mumbai becomes similar to suburbs due to presence of transport. Whenever change takes place, there is disruption. When there is no disruption, there is no change. It’s a bitter pill.”

He said, “If India had a population of 200 million people instead of 1,200 million, of course we wouldn’t have touched Aarey. Half of Mumbai would have been forest. But when we have 1.2 billion people, and there is expectation to have a certain life, in such a situation, we have to change over from traditional ecosystems to man-made engineered ecosystems. If 15 million people are to survive (in Mumbai) without encroaching on mangroves and forests, they need to be employed and given housing. These can happen only through mass transit system. Metro is a critical, small element to ensure people who are not well off have a better chance at employment and housing. If we want 15 million, we have to set aside islands of protection.”

When asked about the evidence of leopards around Aarey car shed site, Mr Pardeshi said, “Leopards are there in many colonies like IIT. What do we do with that?”

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 10:08:44 pm |