The activists of Aarey Conservation Group, along with scores of people and school children, held a peaceful protest by embracing trees in Aarey Colony and appealed to the government to reconsider its decision to build a carshed in the only large green area of the city. “There are seven other plots in the city, where the carshed can come up, without destroying the ecological balance of the city. However, the Mumbai Metro Corporation officials are hell-bent on cutting 3,500 trees. They have started the excavation work and soon, they are going to hack the trees. So, we decided to show our affection with the trees, by launching the Chipko (embracing) movement in Aarey Colony,” said Stalin Dayanand, the convener of NGO, Vanashakti.
Dayanand added, “It is not the metro’s construction but destruction, which the MMRC is doing without getting permission from the agencies. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has clearly said that the Metro Act cannot be above the Environment Protection Act, but the MMRC is brazenly violating the rules.” He alleged that the MMRC had falsely made different affidavits in different agencies, to cut the trees. Dayanand said, “The MMRC stated in the high court that it will cut only 250 trees, whereas, in the NGT, it said that only 500 trees will be hacked. However, shockingly, here on ground zero in Mumbai, it has come up with a tender to hack 3,500 trees.”
Meanwhile, noted lyricist Piyush Mishra, who is also batting for the green cover in the Aarey Colony, has compiled a video song, to sensitise people and the government to protect the trees. Mishra said that it was time to do something, to save the green tract of the city. “We can breathe in Mumbai because of green tracts like Aarey in our city and therefore, it is our responsibility to protect them (trees) from being hacked in the name of development. Why don’t they build the carshed at other convenient places?” Mishra asked.
The state government has demarcated a portion of Aarey land, for setting up a carshed for the Metro-3 corridor, which has been the root cause of controversy between green activists and the nodal agency, MMRC. Reacting to the developments, MMRC said there was no restraining order from the NGT, on undertaking any construction work at Aarey and it has not initiated any tree cutting activity in Aarey as of now. A MMRC spokesperson said, “Being a responsible government organisation, we always ensure that permission of the MCGM’s Tree Authority, which is the competent authority to grant permission for tree cutting, is taken. We also reiterate that hacking will not be initiated, till we receive approval from the Tree Authority.”