The Bombay High Court on March 10, 2017, asked the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRCL), to place before it documents pertaining to clearance from the Union Environment Ministry (MoEF) for construction of three stations in south Mumbai under the Metro line III project. The MMRCL, however, claimed before the HC that the nod of the MoEF was not needed, after which the court asked it to show documents in support of its contention.
The direction was passed by a division bench of the chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice GS Kulkarni, while hearing a petition filed by residents of Churchgate in south Mumbai, against the proposed cutting of 5,000 trees to pave the way for the Seepz-Colaba Metro line III project. The HC had last month restrained the MMRCL from felling trees until further orders from the court.
The petitioners’ counsel Janak Dwarkadas, informed the HC that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has refused permission to MMRCL to construct stations at Churchgate, Hutatma Chowk and Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai, as these areas fall under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for MMRCL, told the HC that the MoEF nod is not needed. The HC then directed the MMRCL to file an affidavit, stating whether or not MoEF clearance is required.
“If it is not required, then, show us the supporting documents. If it is required, then, show us the clearance. Since the issue is about environment, we are concerned and want to be convinced,” the bench said and posted the petition for hearing on March 16, 2017. Chinoy told the court that the MMRCL was ready to replant matured trees, in place of those that will be felled for the metro project in the same vicinity, after completion of the project work. This would be in addition to planting of three saplings in Sewri, Chinoy said. Under the provisions of the Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, for every tree that is to be cut, three more should be planted in another area.
MMRCL’s suggestion to replant the trees in the same area comes after the HC took objection to proposed cutting of trees in south Mumbai and planting them in central Mumbai. “Making old Mumbai a desert by cutting trees and making new Mumbai green, will not work,” chief justice Chellur said.
The HC also suggested that a committee be set up, to look into the issue. Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro, also referred to as the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ line, is a part of the metro system which will connect Cuffe Parade business district in south Mumbai to SEEPZ in the north-central.