Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Aarey forest: No tree felling after October 2019, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation tells Supreme Court

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The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) on Friday told the Supreme Court that no tree has been cut after its order of October, 2019 and that the status quo will be maintained till the next hearing on August 10.

MMRC today submitted an affidavit before a Bench comprising Justice U.U. Lalit, Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice S. Ravindra Bhatt.

The Court observed that the main matter itself was required to be heard on an early date. It directed the Registry to list the matter before the concerned Court on August 10.

It said that no further trees have been cut after October 7, 2019, when the Apex Court had passed an order and that no trees will be cut till the next date of hearing.

Representing the petitioners, Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh said the present government, without considering the earlier committee’s report, has suddenly decided to go back to the proposed site in Aarey, instead of the one at Kanjurmarg, which was identified by the previous government for the Metro car shed.

Appearing for MMRC, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that after October, 2019, no trees have been cut. According to the SG, as on date, 2141 trees have been cut. The project did not proceed further after that. Only weeds and bushes on the ground were cleared. Some branches of a few trees were trimmed, as they were creating hindrance in the movement of traffic on the approach road situated there.

“They have shown photographs of some other areas,” remarked the SG.

The Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the issue on October 7, 2019 on the basis of a letter petition by law student Rishabh Ranjan against cutting of trees for the construction of a Metro Shed in Aarey, Mumbai.

The felling of trees in Aarey Forest had led to protests by environmental activists and residents of the area.

An Apex Court Bench, comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Ashok Bhushan, had earlier ruled that a “status quo be maintained with respect to cutting of trees.” In August 2019, Mumbai Civic Body Tree Authorities had approved a proposal to cut 2,185 trees from Aarey for construction.

Several pleas were filed in the Bombay High Court against the construction, but they were all dismissed. In the meanwhile, MMRCL had started felling the trees.

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