The Supreme Court on Monday clarified that there is no stay order the construction of Metro shed in Aarey Colony, with a stipulation that a stay on felling of trees will remain. Besides, it has also asked for a White Paper on the matter, seeking details of trees uprooted, transplanted and those that survived the transplant.
Approximately 2000 trees were uprooted between October 4 to October 6, before the apex court put a stay on the further felling of trees. The order came after the Maharashtra government proceeded to chop the trees it needed to for its plan to clear 33 hectares of Aarey land for the project.
Appearing on behalf of BMC, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the bench that no further cutting of trees has taken place in Aarey colony and asserted that complete status quo is being maintained following the top court’s last order. In addition, Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi also affirmed the court that “absolute” status quo has been maintained and that no trees have been uprooted since the top court’s previous order.
The Supreme Court has listed the matter to be heard in court on November 15. On October 7, the SC had ordered the Maharashtra government to not cut any more trees in the Aarey area.
The Court has ordered MMRCL to submit a detail report on aforestation meassures taken by it to compensate for felled trees. The court also sought a status report with pictures on plantation, transplantation and felling of trees in Aarey Colony.
On the night of 4th October, the Mumbai Metro Corporation had started the process of cutting 2,185 trees in Aarey colony after the Bombay High Court dismissed all petitions against the same earlier in that day. As per an order issued by the Tree Authority on 13th September, approval for cutting 2,185 trees and transplanting 461 trees was granted to clear the allotted land for the depot of metro trains. Police had to impose section 144 of the IPC for smooth implementation of the order as protestors had arrived at Aarey Colony to prevent trees from being cut. Out of 2,185 trees marked for felling, 2,141 trees were cut before the stay by SC, while the Metro Corporation had said that they have cut all the trees that needed to be cut and they do not need to cut any more trees in the area.
It may be noted that in April this year, the Supreme Court had rejected the plea against locating the metro rail depot at Aarey, ruling that all other alternative locations suggested by activists were rejected by the Technical Committee after thorough studies. The activists had approached the Supreme Court after Bombay High Court had rejected their petitions. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had dismissed the interlocutory application within minutes, citing the Bombay HC order and the technical committee’s report.
Mumbai Metro has already planted 20,900 trees with GPS tagging on each of them in nearby Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and survival rate is 95% for the trees, as confirmed by the Chief Conservator Forest and Director of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The Tree Authority has further ordered MMRC to plant 13,110 trees in the Aarey Colony area within 30 days. This means, compared to 2,141 trees cut and 461 trees transplanted, almost 34,000 trees are being planted, which is 15 times the number of trees felled.