The Bombay High Court Thursday urged environment activists to take a “pragmatic view” of the construction of the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro 3 line. The court said the metro was an “important public utility” needed to ease the traffic woes of the crowded city. “Ensure that mangroves are replanted and restored. It is important to maintain tree cover. But Metro is for the benefit of the citizens as majority are dependent on public transport to travel from one end of the city to another. This is not a dispute concerning a personal property. This is public utility,” Justice V M Kanade said.
This was after the counsel representing Pervin Jehangir, a Cuffe Parade resident opposing the project, stated that the authorities do not have necessary permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to build underground stations in the Coastal Regulatory Zone (1) areas. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) had approached the High Court for approval to remove 108 mangrove trees for the BKC metro station.
Advocate Kiran Bagalia representing the MMRCL informed the court the BKC and Dharavi stations fall under CRZ 1 area and while 108 mangrove trees will have to be cut at BKC, there are no mangroves in Dharavi area.
“We have got all the necessary permissions to go ahead with the construction in this area. The mangroves will be restored and additional mangroves will be planted in both BKC and Dharavi. We will plant five times the mangroves. In Dharavi, although there are no mangroves to be cut, we have allocated a space to plant 4,000 mangrove trees,” Bagalia said. She added that a huge loan had been taken for the project from Japan and delay would lead to losses.
Lawyer Robin Jaisinghani representing the resident, however, placed a copy of a letter by the MOEF, which stated that the department had not given permission for the underground stations in CRZ 1 areas and there was a notification to construct the stations only on stilts. “The projection is in violation of law. There will also be irreversible damage to the environment as a result of this,” Jaisinghani said.
The MMRCL, however, told the court that the necessary permissions had been obtained and these points had been argued at length before the chief justice, who vacated the stay on tree felling.
The court asked residents and activists to consider the “ground reality” before opposing the project. “There should be a balance between environmental concerns and ground reality. Traffic situation has become unbearable and many lives are lost on the roads and tracks everyday. Lives of people must be considered and it is important for the Metro to come up as it will ease the chaotic traffic,” said justice Kanade.
He also added that the authorities are 30 years late in implementing metros and there cannot be further delays. “The projects are getting delayed. Metro is for the benefit of people. Do not take an adversarial stand. Weigh the pros and cons before objecting to this,” Kanade said, while acknowledging the efforts of environmentalists. The case has been adjourned till June 13.