The Bombay High Court Friday refused to vacate its interim stay on cutting of trees for the Metro III project. The court is hearing two petitions, one by Pervin Jehangir challenging the legality of the metro construction, and another by Nina Verma against cutting of trees in Churchgate, Hutatma Chowk and Cuffe Parade. The court had earlier stayed the cutting of trees “till further orders.”
Pointing to the depleting green cover in the city, Chief Justice Manula Chellur said that after 20 years, there would be no green cover left in the city and only concrete construction would be visible. The Metro III will extend from SEEPZ in Andheri to Colaba, and is expected to lead to the hacking of over 5,000 trees.
Senior advocate Janak Dwarkadas, representing petitioner Nina Verma, informed the court that they had still not been allowed to inspect documents related to the project by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL). When the court questioned the two agencies on this, they agreed to allow the petitioner’s lawyer and one representative to inspect the relevant documents next week.
The High Court had earlier this month told the MMRCL to place on record information on the survey it carried out before hacking trees.
With the MMRCL submitting the affidavit Friday, its advocate sought permission to continue with the cutting of trees. The court, however, refused to do so till the next hearing in the matter. “We have a systematic plan in place for re-plantation. We are not cutting trees that are not required to be cut,” said the MMRCL’s advocate.
Dwarkadas, meanwhile, said that he had not even started his submissions on the “callous approach” of the tree authority. “When we destroy the environment, we are destroying ourselves,” he said. The Chief Justice said that while development would cause some hardships, the checks and balances in place have to be followed. “In 20 years if I visit Mumbai, there will be no green cover. There will only be concrete, “ said Chief Justice Chellur, adding that the interests of the future generations had to be protected.
Meanwhile, in its affidavit, the BMC has stated that it had received a total of 26 applications for tree cutting pertaining to the Mumbai Metro III, out of which permission was granted for 25, in compliance with the procedures laid down in the Tree Act. Agreeing with some discrepancies pointed out by the petitioners in terms of the trees affected, the BMC further said that an explanation would be taken from officers and relevant action then initiated.
Meanwhile, the MMRCL in its affidavit stated, “It is not mandatory to carry out Environment Impact Assessment for construction of Metro Railways.” According to them, this was in accordance with a notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The affidavit said maximum efforts would be taken to ensure survival of the 1,727 trees proposed to be transplanted, though trees falling within the work alignment would have to be removed. “During development of infrastructure and progress, some effect on natural environment is inevitable,” said the affidavit.