The civic body’s Tree Authority on Monday deferred its decision on cutting 2,298 trees at Aarey for the proposed Metro-III car-shed.
Almost all members of the Tree Authority opposed cutting of trees, citing public opposition to the loss of green cover and insisted that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) provide details of where the re-plantation and transplantation will be done before the proposal comes up again before the Tree Authority in its next meeting.
For the Metro-III car-shed, 254 trees from Aarey are proposed to be cut, and 2,044 trees are proposed to be transplanted. “Where will they transplant so many trees and create the next forest comprising 2,000 trees? There is no place left in Mumbai to do this,” said Subha Raul, member of Tree Authority.
“We have asked for a detailed presentation by MMRCL showing where the replantation and transplantation will be done,” said Nandkishore Vichare, a Tree Authority member. Members have also demanded that the superintendent of gardens and the deputy municipal commissioner, in charge of the Gardens Department, visit the site at Aarey and make a report on the trees that will be cut.
Further, some members also demanded that MMRCL seek an alternative location to build the car shed.
Members of the ‘Save Aarey’ community met Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and other officials before the Tree Authority meeting and camped outside the room where the meeting was held. The community took up the cause to save the trees in Aarey from coming under the axe few months ago.
“It is not just a tree issue, but it is an issue of losing a green lung. The commissioner and the Gardens Department should be batting for saving trees and open spaces and not batting only for development. We brought it to their notice that the survival rate for tree transplantation is low,” said environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal, a researcher with Observer Research Foundation.
The community has suggested building the car-shed at the Mumbai Port Trust land, which will be opened up for development or by reclaiming land at Colaba, akin to the procedure being followed for the Coastal Road project.
“Next, we will be convincing Tree Authority members and civic authorities on these alternative locations for the car-shed,” he added.
In Monday’s meeting, Raul also proposed that the Tree Authority be renamed Tree Authority and Environment Committee. “All factors related to trees like the problem of concretised bases slowing chocking trees, bird nests being destroyed by reckless tree cutting, should come under our purview. I have also demanded that the environment department of BMC come under us. It is sadly under the solid waste management department and is referred to only in times of disasters. We need to change that. We should work towards making a living, breathing city, not a dead one,” she said.
Amit raj Thackeray, son of MNS chief Raj Thackeray, made his debut appearance at BMC headquarters for a meeting with civic chief Sitaram Kunte to discuss the issue of dying rain trees in the city. Flanked by MNS corporators, Thackeray showed Kunte a report with photos of rain trees being affected by Mealy bugs. He also showed photos of trees near Infinity Mall that he believes were poisoned, and made a mention of concretised root bases chocking the rain trees, across the city.