Of the 131 trees that have been transplanted for the construction of the Metro 7 in the city, at least 30 did not survive, reveals a report prepared by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). This shows the survival rate of transplanted trees to be only 77 per cent. According to an environmental engineer who is working closely with the contractor Simplex Infrastructure, which transplanted 30 trees to Aarey Colony for the construction of the casting yard at Wadala, the trees died after the land allocated to Simplex was transferred to the Muslim community as a burial ground.
“Plot No. 20 in Aarey was allocated for tree transplantation in December, however, in February, it was handed over to the Muslim community for their burial ground. We could not enter the land after that to tend to the trees and of the 39 trees we planted there, only nine are now left alive,” he said.
While confirming this development, a senior MMRDA official said, “However, we have compensated for the loss of the transplanted trees by planting 99 trees on an adjacent plot that has now been allotted to us.”
However, this could not be confirmed with the Dairy Development Board as the CEO of the Aarey Milk Colony, Nathu Rathod, remained unavailable for comment.
According to the report that is to be submitted to the Bombay High Court, of the 131 trees that were transplanted, 121 had to be transplanted for the construction of the casting yard and only 10 trees have been moved for the alignment. The contractors have also cut 79 trees for the Metro line — 54 for the casting yards at Bandra and Wadala and 25 along the alignment. They have planted 316 trees as compensatory plantation for cutting these trees and according to their report, all the trees have survived.
“The High Court issued a stay on tree cutting activities on the WEH in February 2016. While tree cutting is important if the MMRDA has gone ahead to cut the trees despite the stay it is a clear violation of the court’s order,” said Zoru Bhatena, who had filed the PIL in the HC.
In a separate matter, the High Court had issued a stay on all tree cutting along the Western Express Highway. The Dahisar East to Andheri East corridor is being built along the same arterial road. However, the official maintains that all trees were cut after receiving clearance from the Tree Authority. “We had the tree authority permissions to cut the 25 trees,” he says.
The MMRDA has handed over the work order for the 16.5-km to three contractors — NCC Limited, J Kumar Infraprojects and Simplex Infrastructure — and they are responsible for conducting the tree transplantation and the compensatory plantation. Altogether, 243 trees are to be affected along the Metro 7 alignment. The permissions from the Tree Authority are still pending for most of them.