Amid the ongoing furore over tree cutting in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony for the proposed Metro car shed, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar Saturday said that the cutting of trees for the Mumbai Metro was similar to what was done in Delhi for the construction of the metro, and added that the government will plant double the trees than felled.
Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Javadekar said, “Today, Delhi Metro is the world’s best metro. But how did it develop? We had to cut at least 20-25 trees for one metro station. People protested then too, in the same way they are protesting now. Later, we had planted five trees in place of one. And now, in 15-17 years, they have grown. We successfully constructed 271 stations, too. In this way, Delhi’s forest cover also grew and public transport service was provided to the 30 lakh Delhiites. This is how our ministry works. We work on development along with taking care of our environment.”
Javadekar added: “The Bombay High Court has decided and ruled that it (Aarey) is not a forest. You cannot claim anything as a forest.”
The environment minister’s remarks came amid heavy protests that erupted in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, where at least 29 people have been arrested and several others detained till now. Following the unrest, prohibitory orders under Section 144 were imposed by Mumbai police this morning. Children, youth, social activists, and political leaders were part of the protests. “Section 144 of the CrPC, banning unlawful assembly, was imposed in Aarey Colony, Goregaon check post and surrounding areas on Saturday,” a Mumbai police spokesperson said.
Opposition parties slammed the ruling Sena-BJP alliance, stating they have failed to save the trees. Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray criticised the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd for “slyly and swiftly” cutting down an ecosystem, which, he said, is “shameful and disgusting”.
Sena’s leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, along with four others, was also detained by the police.
“I have not violated Section 144. I am standing here alone and not in a group. We (citizens) are requesting police to show us permission to cut trees and they are violently acting and detaining,” Chaturvedi told reporters.
She later tweeted: “I have been forcibly evicted by the cops and I wasn’t even breaking the law! The cops in the car won’t even tell me where I am being taken… this is insane.”
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) began cutting trees late Friday night, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed a petition challenging Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Tree Authority’s decision to fell over 2,000 trees in the Aarey area of Mumbai’s Goregaon for the construction of the Metro Line 3 rake depot.
In the aftermath of Friday’s protests against tree felling, 29 people have been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. The police had also asked for custody of four of the protestors to investigate their role in Friday night’s chaos at Aarey but a magistrate rejected the pleas. All protestors have been booked on the charges of unlawful assembly and using criminal force to deter a public servant from carrying out his official duties under the Indian Penal Code. If convicted, the offences carry prison terms ranging between six months and three years.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines