After the Bombay High Court vacated its stay on cutting of trees for construction of Metro 3, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has begun transplanting trees from the station sites to Aarey Colony. However, the arborist, who was to overlook the transplantation and compensatory plantation, is yet to arrive.
Activists, who accompanied the court-appointed committee of the deputy registrar of court and Maharashtra Legal Services Authority, said while there were some horticulturalists on the site, the arborist was not to be seen. “We have been accompanying the committee for the last one week and have been to all the station sites and the transplantation area but the arborist from Singapore was never there. The MMRC informed court he will be overlooking the transplantation to ensure all trees survive. But to do that he needs to be present. It is clear it was just an eyewash by the MMRC,” said Zoru Bhatena, an activist.
An arborist is a person trained in the science of planting, caring for and maintaining trees. The MMRC had presented a document in court which said they would be hiring the services of an arborist from Singapore at a salary of USD 33,000 per month. This amounts to Rs 21,94,000 in Indian currency.
Apart from this, the arborist is to be provided a maximum accommodation allowance of Rs 10,80,000 for his six-month stay, as well as reimbursements for four international round trips totalling Rs 1,20,000. The MMRC had claimed this will be the first time in India that an arborist will be consulted by a Metro rail implementing body.
The MMRC has transplanted close to 100 trees from different station locations in Aarey over the last two weeks. The activists claim all of them were conducted under the supervision of junior horticulturalists. “Even they might have the required experience but when they had promised the best by bringing a foreign expert they should have kept their word,” said Zoru. He raised worries over the lack of guidelines followed by MMRC during transplantation. “According to the BMC guidelines for tree transplantation, there should be only five trees in a 10 sqm land, but here they have planted too many trees in a small area. How can the trees survive when they have so little area? Even the trees being planted for compensatory afforestation are not according to the size the BMC has mandated,” he said.
The MMRC refused to comment on the issue.