In an application filed before the Bombay High Court, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has stated that it has already cut 25 trees on the Western Express Highway for the construction of Metro 7. Seeking modification of a 2016 order of the High Court, the MMRDA has sought permission to cut another 216 trees along the alignment of the Andheri East-Dahisar East corridor. The work of installing girders and erecting piers along the route is currently under way.
Hearing a PIL by activist Zoru Bhathena, the High Court had on February 3, 2016, directed the BMC “to ensure that the remaining trees on the Western Express Highway are not cut or destroyed.” Bhathena had initially filed the PIL to raise concern over the death of several rain trees in the city due to an epidemic. In an additional affidavit, he mentioned that he noticed about 100 healthy trees being cut on the divider along the Western Express Highway for beautification.
The MMRDA filed the application in court seeking modification of the order and to direct MCGM to grant permission for cutting 216 more trees along the alignment.
“We cut the trees earlier this year as they were impeding our work. However, we have the necessary permissions from the Tree Authority,” said a senior MMRDA official.
In the application dated August 21, 2017, MMRDA mentions that it has compensated for the cut trees by planting 154 new trees — 130 at Aarey Milk Colony and 24 at the casting yard in Bandra. While the Tree Authority mandates the plantation of three trees for every tree cut, according to the MMRDA, they have planted more.
The application stated that in the present case, “for the 25 trees that have been cut down by the applicant, 154 trees have been planted by the applicant.”
Bhathena, however, alleged that MMRDA’s action is a clear “contempt of court”. “When the High Court has given a stay on tree cutting, MMRDA cannot take law into their own hands,” he said.
Apart from the 25 trees cut along the alignment, MMRDA has also cut 54 trees for the casting yards at Wadala and Bandra. They had also transplanted 131 trees for the construction — 121 for the casting yard and 10 for the alignment — however, 39 of them died.
The matter is likely to be heard before the Division Bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar on September 14.