A vacation bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising justices PD Naik and MS Karnik, refused to restrain the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL), from cutting trees, for the Metro III project and observed that while they was concerned about the trees, a middle ground had to be arrived at, when development projects are involved. The bench was hearing an application filed by city resident Kunal Birwadkar, alleging that the authorities were illegally felling even those trees, for which they didn’t have permission, or those that had been marked for transplantation at alternate spots.
Advocate Mustafa Doctor, appearing for the MMRCL, told the high court that only the trees marked by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) were being cut and that the Metro Rail Corporation was following all norms. The BMC’s counsel, advocate Anil Sakhre, also submitted that its own officials, as well as those from the high court and Maharashtra Legal Services Authority, had inspected all sites in south Mumbai where trees were being cut, to ensure compliance with the norms.
The court accepted the statements and said that as long as the authorities were complying with the previous orders of the HC, there was no need to grant a stay. “We are also concerned for the trees but when development projects are concerned, a middle ground has to be arrived at,” the court said. The court posted the matter for further hearing on June 5, 2017.
Over 5,000 trees are proposed to be cut in various areas of south Mumbai, to pave way for the Colaba–Bandra-SEEPZ Metro line III project. The high court had earlier granted a stay on the cutting of trees, but on May 5, 2017, it vacated its stay and gave a go-ahead to the MMRCL to cut the trees, after observing that a balance needs to be established between development and environment.
The court had allowed the MMRCL to cut the trees, on an undertaking by the corporation that for each tree it would cut in south Mumbai, another one would be planted at the same spot after the construction work is over. This would be in addition to three saplings that the authority would plant in suburban Mumbai, for every tree they cut. The 33-kilometre line III project is a part of the metro system which will connect the Cuffe Parade business district in south Mumbai to SEEPZ in the city’s north-central suburb.