Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has issued a notice to cut 124 trees and transplant 53 others at Sariput Nagar in Aarey. The notice says that the trees need to be cut as they are blocking the shunting neck work of Metro Line 3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) being carried out by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL).
The BMC has not called for a meeting to discuss the matter but has asked the citizens to mail their suggestions/objections because of pandemic Covid-19 and they have set January 23 as the deadline for this. They said that any suggestion/objection will not be entertained after this date.
The decision to have a car shed for Metro Line 3 and generate revenue through commercialisation of the plot at Aarey was taken by the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in 2014 and later, was continued by Devendra Fadnavis. When Uddhav Thackeray took over, he decided to shift the Metro 3 car shed to Kanjur Marg. Fadnavis reversed this after taking over as the deputy chief minister.
Environmentalists blame Fadnavis for the cutting of the trees and the deputy CM has termed these protests by environmentalists as — genuine to certain extent and also sponsored.
In 2019, when various court stays were lifted, thousands of trees were cut even as environmentalists protested. During the tenure of Uddhav Thackeray, he decided to convert 804 acres of Aarey into a reserve forest as leopards and wildlife from neighbouring Sanjay Gandhi National Park often migrated here.
Environmentalists D Stalin of NGO Vanshakti said, “The lies and falsehood done by MMRCL and Devendra Fadnavis in the matter of Aarey forests is horrendous to describe it mildly.
“Time and again, the people and even the courts, were misled that all the trees needed for the project in Aarey have been cut. After cutting down trees in brazen defiance of the Supreme Court order, more destruction is being unleashed on the forests of Aarey,” he said.
“Even the judiciary has looked the other way when this happened and that is deeply disappointing for the citizens. All said and done, the truth will remain that the forests of Aarey are being needlessly butchered,” said Stalin.
Activist Zoru Bhathena said, “In 2019, the Fadnavis government had made a false claim that all trees that needed to be cut, were cut overnight. In July 2022, using this claim, the authorities illegally cleared out the forest.
“Later, Fadnavis made a statement that not a single more tree would need to be cut. Just another false claim by Fadnavis, in a long list of false statements made by him viz Aarey.’’
Environmentalist Amrita Bhattacharjee said, “Many trees have been cut in Aarey in the last one year. Trees have been cleared near metro station on banks of Mithi river.”