The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has moved a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court to vacate the stay on functioning of the Tree Authority. The civic body has contended that the stay, since October 2018, has hampered several infrastructure projects, including mega projects like the Metro, construction on a car shed in Aarey Milk Colony, and widening of drains at Hindmata.
The Tree Authority, a statutory body constituted under Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Prevention and Protection of Trees Act, 1975, was set up to sanction permissions for removing or cutting trees in Mumbai. Last month, Bombay High Court had refused to lift stay on Tree Authority’s functioning.
“There are many big development projects stuck due to the Bombay High Court’s stay (order). We have appointed four experts (on board the Authority) and soon more experts will be appointed. We have requested the Supreme Court that the Tree Authority be allowed to clear proposals to fell trees since several infrastructure projects have been held up,” an official from the BMC’s Garden Department said.
BMC should show zeal in naming expert members
While the BMC has moved the Supreme Court to get the High Court stay lifted, it should have shown the same alacrity in appointing the experts on the Tree Authority. Not having expert members in the committee defeats the very purpose of the Trees Act under which the body was formed. It should maintain a balance between infrastructure development and the tree conservation in the city.
According to officials, proposal to fell 2,700 trees for projects such as the Metro phase-3, Aarey Milk Colony car shed, was held up due to the stay. Besides, the proposals to remove 55 trees for widening a storm water drain at Hindmata and felling over 200 trees for Versova-Bandra Sea Link were also pending.
Last year, green activist Zoru Bhathena had filed petition in the Bombay High Court alleging that the Tree Authority was violating rules under the Trees Act. The petition stated that the Tree Authority should have equal number of experts and corporators on board, however, the civic body had not appointed any experts in the committee. While hearing the petition, the high court had ordered the civic body to follow the norms.
Last month, the BMC’s garden department had appointed only four experts to the Authority. But Bhathena had pointed out that the civic body had failed to meet the criteria as there were 14 corporators in its committee. In October 2018, the high court stayed the Tree Authority from taking any decision on felling trees, unless it appointed tree experts on its panel. In the latest hearing, on June 18, the High Court continued the stay.
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