Armed with approval from the Bombay High Court, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) on Friday evening started felling trees in the Aarey colony causing widespread protests. Hundreds of protesters had gathered at the site to stop authorities from chopping down trees. To bring the situation under control, Mumbai Police imposed later prohibitory orders under Section 144 and even arrested 29 people and detained several others.
“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.
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, who was participating in the protests, was also detained by police. In a tweet, Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “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 @MumbaiPolice.”
What is ‘Save Aarey’protest?
The protest started against the proposal by the BMC’s Tree Authority to fell and transplant 2,646 trees in Aarey Colony for a Metro car depot of the Metro 3 line. The citizen-driven campaign — Save Aarey — gained political momentum as the state goes to polls this year.
Residents and environmentalists fear that the car depot will destroy biodiversity and pave the way for further development and land exploitation in Aarey.
On August 29, the proposal for cutting trees was passed by a vote. Eight votes (four BJP corporators, three experts and one NCP corporator) were in support of felling the trees, while six votes (all from Shiv Sena) were against the move. Two Congress corporators had walked out of the meeting before the voting began.
What is Aarey land?
Spread across 33-hectares at Mumbai’s Goregaon region, Aarey is considered a major green lung for the metropolis. The Aarey colony is a part of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and it is home to several different flora and fauna.
According to government records, Aarey houses as many as nine resident leopards and has a rich biodiversity. Even today, original adivasis (indigenous inhabitants of this area) live in 27 tribal hamlets in the Aarey colony.
Who have supported the protests?
The protesters are mainly residents of the area and environmentalists who feel the felling of trees could pose a threat to the biodiversity. It has also got support from some celebrities and politicians too.
What did the Bombay HC ruling say?
A division bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday ruled on four petitions while refusing to declare Aarey Colony a forest and declined to quash BMC-appointed Tree Authority’s decision to fell over 2600 trees in the area.
The court also took note of the MMRCL submission that the authority had already planted 20,900 trees in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. “This establishes that about seven times the number of trees to be felled have been replaced by planting of saplings,” the court said.
The authority has approved felling of 2,185 trees and transplanting — uprooting from the original spot and replanting them at an alternate spot– 461 trees from the area.
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