Upholding its earlier stay on any construction activity in Aarey Milk Colony, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Monday barred the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) from dumping debris, reclaiming land and cutting trees for construction of the Metro 3 car depot till July 10. However, activists claim the activity has already caused a lot of environmental damage to the land.
“They have dumped mud on the land to level it and it has covered the trees. They might not have cut the trees on the land as they do not have the Tree Authority permission but by burying at least 10 feet of the trees in mud they are giving them a slow death. They have also dumped debris to merge the 30 hectares land with the adjoining three hectares land. These activities have damaged the land,” said Zoru Bhathena, an activist closely following the developments at Aarey Colony.
The Delhi bench of the NGT upheld the status quo order passed by the Pune bench in July 2015 which prevented constructions around 100 metres of the boundary wall of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Aarey Colony.
“From the time they began work on the land they have been claiming that there is no stay on construction and in the court they claim that they are not doing any work there. Their work so far on the land is in violation of the NGT order and we will be filing a review petition seeking penal action on MMRC,” said Stalin Dayanand, Director, NGO Vanashakti and one of the applicants in the matter.
The MMRC awarded the contract for construction of the car depot on June 29 last year and the work on the land began in August. “The plot has three perennial streams of water flowing into it from Aarey and draining into the Mithi river. They have blocked these streams and diverted them into a cement nullah. The plot is also the floodplains of the Mithi river and by raising the level of the land the river will not be able to flow out and will instead flood the city. We will see its effects this monsoon,” added Bhathena.
According to Stalin, the damage can be reversed if the court orders them to clear the land. “It will be a Herculean effort to restore the land to its original condition. But they will have to do it if the court orders them,” he said. An MMRC spokesperson, however, said, “All construction activities being carried out by MMRC at the car depot are in compliance with the NGT order. No debris is being dumped and and no tree cut in any case in the depot area as permission from the Tree Authority for tree cutting is pending with MCGM. Work is being carried out on land where there are no trees.”