Metro 4: SC orders maintaining status quo on axing 1,023 trees

United stand: Residents of Ghatkopar protest the construction of Metro 4 through residential areas in their locality.

United stand: Residents of Ghatkopar protest the construction of Metro 4 through residential areas in their locality.   | Photo Credit: Prashant Waydande


Notices issued to MMRDA and State government; replies sought within two weeks

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered that status quo be maintained on the removal of 1,023 trees for the 32.5-km-long Mumbai Metro 4 project. The matter was heard by a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.H. Bobde and Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant.

The apex court also issued notices to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the State government and sought their replies in two weeks. This is the second time in two months that the Supreme Court has intervened to stop felling of trees for Metro projects. On Monday, the apex court stayed, for two weeks, the axing of trees for Metro 4. Last month, it had ordered no tree be cut in Aarey to build a car shed for Metro 3.

Thane resident Rohit Joshi, through advocate Pooja Dhar, filed a plea challenging the Bombay High Court’s November 25 order vacating the stay on the felling of trees. The High Court had vacated the stay passed by a different Bench in October, observing that public projects cannot be stalled.

Mr. Joshi, in his petition, said the High Court had vacated the stay on a technical ground and did not allow him to file amendments to the petition filed in April.

The Bench asked the counsel for the petitioner if they have challenged the decision of the authority, which approved the felling of the trees for the project. Mr. Joshi said, “The Supreme Court has granted one week’s time to amend our petition and include the challenge to permissions of tree removal and present it to the High Court. An injunction on felling trees for two weeks has been granted.”

‘Untruthful projection’

Mr. Joshi said several issues plague Metro 4 in terms of planning and execution. He said the detailed project report was not truthful in its projection of the environmental damage. The report said 458 trees would be cut as part of the project. In August, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Tree Authority sent back a proposal to axe 673 trees and transplant 1,114 trees after about 100 people voiced concern at a suggestions and objections meeting.

Mr. Joshi contended that the permission granted for cutting of trees was in violation of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Conservation of Trees Act, 1975, which requires public notice by advertising in local newspapers, fixing notice on the trees identified for felling, and holding an inquiry. “No such procedure was followed in this case,” Mr. Joshi said in his plea.

The petitioner said the Tree Authority did not consider any public objections before granting permission to fell trees. Mr. Joshi said the High Court had erred in not identifying that preventing destruction of ecology is of greater public interest in comparison with the construction of the project.

“The elevated line will result in loss of green cover. Destruction of mangroves has already begun for construction of a casting yard,” Mr. Joshi said in his petition. (With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 2:57:57 AM |

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