Mumbai’s Metro project has been in the news for several years due to the construction of a car shed at Aarey Colony, which environmentalists claim will lead to the “indiscriminate” felling of trees in the area.The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) has told the Bombay High Court that because of litigation, the work on the Aarey metro car shed was being delayed, resulting in the growth of extra trees in the area where construction was supposed to take place. Therefore, it requires more trees to be cut from the earlier proposed plan.
The dispute is related to the Supreme Court order passed in 2022, which allowed to cut 84 trees to build the Metro car shed.
Following the court’s permission for tree cutting, the MMRCL submitted a request to the tree authority of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to cut 177 trees.
An activist, Zoru Bhathena, dragged the matter to the HC, challenging the BMC’s tree authority’s notice for cutting down the 177 trees.
Bhathena claimed that the notice violates the supreme court order released on November 2022, which allowed to cut only 84 trees.
The MMRCL has said that due to court cases, it was unable to cut down trees in 2019, and this has led to an increase in the number of trees required to be cut for the project. In 2019, the MMRCL had sought permission to cut down 84 trees, but due to the petitions filed, a status quo was ordered by the Supreme Court.
Advocate Ashutosh Kumbhakoni representing MMRCL, said to the court, “The area where the metro car shed needed to be constructed, at that time, there were 84 trees. So, our application said that we want to remove 84 trees. The purpose was to clean-shave the land so that we could construct the metro car shed shunting area. This matter remained pending for four years, thanks to the petitioner. During these four years, four monsoon seasons have passed. So, at that time, what were saplings only and were not falling under the definition of trees, they grew naturally and have now become trees.”
The number of trees at the Metro car shed site has increased in the past four years, and the total updated number of trees that require to be cut has increased, said MMRCL.
The MMRCL claims in its affidavit to the Bombay high court that due to delay in constructing the Aarey metro car shed is causing a daily loss of Rs 5.87 crore, leading to cost escalation.
The BMC’s tree authority has reiterated the MMRCL’s stand that from 2019 till now, many wild trees have matured and have reached 20 to 25 feet in height. The matter is posted for further hearing on February 23.
The debate over the Metro car shed project in Aarey Colony has been persistent. When the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray took charge, they had declared that the car shed would be built in suburban Kanjurmarg instead of Aarey Colony.
But, in June 2022, the Eknath Shinde-BJP government overturned the decision and announced that the car shed would be erected solely in Aarey Colony.
The division bench took the affidavits on record and posted the PIL for further hearing on February 23.