CLOSE TO 5,000 trees would be affected in the city during the construction of the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro corridor. However, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) — the implementing body of the Metro 3 — plans to compensate by transplanting 2,500 of these in other pockets of the city. MMRC has now zeroed in at 3,712 trees that were on route the 33.5-km metro line, of which 990 would be axed down while 1,600 would be transplanted. This is excluding the trees that would be cut in the controversial Aarey Colony where 1,200 trees were likely to be cut and 900 would be transplanted.
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Further in compliance of Tree Authority directives, MMRC would also plant three new trees for every one that is chopped down. The metro body has identified four barren lands for the transplantation activity in Juhu, Wadala, Mankhurd and Aarey.
“For the first time we will involve in designing and landscaping and create dense tree plantation zones. Only well-grown saplings, one or two-year olds, of designated varieties will be planted. The contractors for each package will be responsible for the transplantation of trees that they touch. They have experts on board who will ensure that the entire process is conducted in a scientific manner,” said R Ramana, Executive Director (Planning), MMRC.
However, environmental activists have shown extreme distrust and skepticism towards MMRC’s transplantation initiatives.
“Past experiences show that the success rate for transplantation in Mumbai is zero. During the monorail construction too they spoke about transplantation. They still need to fulfil the backlog of 700 trees from then. Their compensatory afforestation at Kandivli sports club has only seen a 30 per cent success. Transplantation requires expertise, huge amount of money and also long-term commitment and large sum of money,” said D Stalin, Project Director, Vanashakti.
Activists have also raised questions over the transplantation of trees from one area to another as it does not compensate for the loss of green cover in the area. But MMRC has an answer to that as well.
“We will also ask housing societies and residences in the nearby areas to allow us to plant trees in their open spaces so that the trees remain in the same vicinity,” said R Ramana, Executive Director (Planning), MMRC.
An RTI by Zoru Bhathena seeking the total number of trees cut along the entire metro line revealed that between CST and Grant Road metro stations, around 138 trees would be cut. Another 120 trees were to be transplanted at the Aarey Depot and in the periphery of Azad Maidan. A public notice by the tree authority also revealed the loss of 275 trees and transplantation of 303 trees for the construction of the line from Cuffe Parade to CST Station.
Bhathena felt the numbers identified by MMRC were all bunkum and believed that eventually the number of trees cut by MMRC would be much higher.
“The officials have always quoted fake figures. As things are moving, I believe Mumbai will lose almost 10,000 trees during Metro 3 construction and then there will be more for the other lines. While we understand that they have to cut trees, they do not need to cut everything that comes before them. If they are to do it sensibly the tree cover lost would be much lesser. But unlike slums and encroachments, trees cannot raise a protest. So they have chosen to route the line from the lease resistance area,” said Bhatena.
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