After several protests against the cutting of 2,298 trees to make way for Metro-III car-shed at Aarey, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday constituted an expert panel to look into the project and submit a report within a month.
The panel will study other possible sites for the Metro car-shed project, failing which it will suggest the best technology and agency to ensure proper transplantation of the trees in Aarey. Over 250 trees from Aarey are proposed to be cut and 2,040 trees are proposed to be transplanted.
“In the meantime, no trees will be cut at Aarey. In fact, 1,000 trees will be planted at a site controlled by the animal husbandry department at Aarey,” said BJP MP Ashish Shelar.
The expert panel will comprise Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) Commissioner UPS Madan, Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner (BMC) Sitaram Kunte, Urban Development Department Principal Secretary Nitin Kareer, and scientists Rakesh Kumar from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Emeritus Fellow Rashmi Patil from IIT Bombay’s Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay professor Ravi Sinha, along with Kolkata Metro GM, Metro expert G R Madan, and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation director Balwinder Kumar.
The proposal for tree cutting was slated to come up before the civic body’s Tree Authority, which in February had deferred its decision, citing public opposition to the loss of green cover. Members of the Tree Authority had insisted that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) provide details of where the replantation and transplantation will be done before the proposal comes up before the Tree Authority in its next meeting, which is yet to happen.
On Sunday, over 700 people, including members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Save Aarey, SPROUTS Environmental Trust, NGO Vanashakti, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare and local tribal groups participated in a silent protest march. Last month, Shiv Sena leader Ravindra Waikar and Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray had joined the citizen’s movement to save Aarey.
The Save Aarey members, along with environmentalists, had also met the CM last week, but the decision to constitute an expert panel came after a BJP delegation, led by MP Ashish Shelar, met the CM on Monday.
“It is a positive step. So far, nobody was willing to talk to us about alternative locations. At least with this expert panel, we will get a chance to put forward the alternative locations for the project. Through this, we want to highlight the farce that is tree transplantation in the city. The trees allegedly transplanted by MMRDA or other agencies rarely survive,” said D Stalin, project director, NGO Vanashakti.