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“Cost of development can be measured in Rupees, but destruction of environment cannot be.” – said the Bombay High Court, while listing the batch of Aarey Tree petitions 17th September onwards. Court has directed the Registry to list the matter daily, to be heard for 2-3 hours. Court will start with hearing the issues of forest and SGNP records.

The Bombay HC Chief Justice & Justice Bharati Dangre had called all lawyers in Aarey Tree Matter yesterday to appear at 3pm although matter was not on board.

The PIL filed by activist Zoru Bhathena has challenged the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Tree Authority’s decision to fell 2646 trees on August 29 to make way for a Metro car shed.

The Chief Justice said there are so many petitions pending regarding Aarey:

1) to declare it as a Forest

2) to check if it is a part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)

3) to save the flood plains

4) Tree Authority matter

5) to ask for Environmental Clearance

Chief Justice Nandrajog remarked that Aarey issue is splashed over the papers & TV everyday, for which reason he is unable to read the papers or news, because, as a Judge he doesn’t want to be biased.

In jest, he also said he needs to read his papers & watch his TV.

The Chief Justice said he has personally been researching the issue of putting a cost of environmental destruction & shared with all the petitioners material on his research on the matter, and also asked for inputs. Court also circulated material on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), an initiative by the Ministry of Environment and Forests which focuses on forests, inland wetlands and coastal and marine ecosystems.

The bench has urged the lawyers to find more material on the issues.  “It will help us lay down better jurisprudence,” the bench said.

Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has however urged Mumbaikars to desist from delaying the project as costs would escalate and resultantly, future metro commuters would have to bear higher ticket charges, citing the current high toll charges on the sea-link as a precedent.

Aarey forest is home to 76 bird species, 80 species of butterflies, 38 species of reptiles, nine leopards and 16 species of mammals whose habitat will be disrupted if the metro car shed is built.

–India Legal Bureau

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