The opposition of environment activists to hacking of trees for the construction of Metro 3 took a dramatic turn on Wednesday when an activist climbed up a 200-year-old tree at Churchgate that was being cut. The activist said he was “upset over the false promises” made by the government that assured that trees would be protected. Barely 200 metres behind Mantralaya, the drama unfolded as Abhay Bavishi (35) scaled a peepal tree. His 20-minute protest entailed hugging the tree and “calling out the government’s lie”.
Bavishi was later escorted down with help of a steel ladder by two police officers attached to Marine Drive police station. Bavishi, a media professional, alleged that he had asked the metro workers for the permission letter to fell the tree outside Kasturi building on Jamshedji Tata Road. “When they didn’t have an answer, I climbed up on instinct,” Bavishi told The Indian Express after he was detained at the Marine Drive police station.
“Earlier in the day, a video of Churchgate resident Jamshed Kambata who stood before a live chain saw went viral. Kambata is not affiliated to any environment group but he lives opposite a banyan tree that had been felled. We were all south-bound after the video, including Bavishi. Bashvi had come here to inspect the trees. His actions were impromptu,” said Gaurang Motta, an associate of Bavishi.
Around 5 pm, Bavishi climbed up the tree and started shouting, with, around 100 people gathered below.“We say Aamchi Mumbai. I am Aamchi Mumbai and I am trying to do something for my city and this is the reaction … I am not doing a stunt and I am not trying to commit suicide … I am protesting against the lies told by the state government,” Bavishi told the crowd holding onto a branch of the tree.
After being brought down, Bavishi was rushed to the nearby Marine Drive police station, where he recorded his statement and maintained that the MMRCL did not have permission to cut the tree. Senior police inspector station, Vilas Gangawane, refused to comment. “What if he injured someone or climbed to the neighbouring building or even committed suicide? We would have been held responsible. We just avoided a potential law and order situation,” said an officer who convinced Bavishi to get down.
After the incident, the Marine Drive police station deployed at least 20 officers at the spot to prevent law and order problems. No complaint has been registered. Bavishi was let off after two hours. An hour after Bavishi’s protest, the tree was reduced to half its size.