The Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to axe or relocate nearly 1,100 trees for the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road (GMLR) project, reports the Times of India.
According to the reports, BMC notices posted on trees on the Eastern Express Highway and near the Nahur railway station read that as many as 1,100 trees in the zone would be affected. Out of the 1,100 trees, at least 115 would be axed to make way for the construction of a flyover.
The uprooting work east-west connector is yet to begin, however, BMC officials said they are still unsure how many trees would be axed.
“We are yet to decide on the exact number, however, all the trees will need to go,” said Satish Thosar, the chief engineer of the BMC bridges department.
In addition to a flyover, a tunnel bypassing the Sanjay Gandhi national park will impact more trees. The BMC officials said that the rest of the trees would be affected due to road widening proposed along the Mulund-Goregaon side of the proposed road.
Meanwhile, environmental activists have voiced their concerns against the axing of so many trees to make way for infrastructure projects. Activist Zoru Bhathena said that in 80% of cases when trees are relocated, they do not survive.
“It is better if BMC relocates the trees to the end of the same proposed road itself instead of taking these to another location. However, if the trees are those that have been recently planted, their survival rate is high,” he said.
Advocate and activist Godfrey Pimenta said that environmental destruction could be irreversible. “This should not be allowed at any cost, and we will vehemently oppose it,” the activist said.
BMC has already started constructing two bridges that connect Western Express Highway with Eastern Express Highway. The total length of the road beginning from Western Express Highway in Goregaon up to Eastern Express Highway in Mulund is over 12 km.
This comes almost a month after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had planned to chop off nearly 2000 mangrove trees to make way for bridges in the Andheri and Malad region.
However, the BMC’s decision to axe thousands of trees is, in fact, contrary to the recent stand taken by the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which had vehemently opposed the felling of trees to develop infrastructure projects. It is imperative to recall how the Shiv Sena govt led by Uddhav Thackeray had played petty politics over the Aarey forest ever since the Shiv Sena supremo took over Maharashtra’s chief minister’s seat.
Shiv Sena and environmental activism farce
On the one hand, the Shiv Sena-led MVA government in Maharashtra resorts to activism to cancel infrastructure projects citing environmental degradation, while the BMC sanctions axing thousands of trees to build flyovers and roads.
In December 2020, BMC also granted Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) permission to remove over 1,000 trees for Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL). As part of the plan, around 454 trees will be axed, while about 550 other trees will be transplanted for the project. MTHL, also known as the Sewri-Nhava Sheva project, will connect Sewri with Nhava Sheva in Navi Mumbai through a 22-km long, 6-lane highway bridge over the Arabian sea.
This move comes after the Shiv Sena’s “saving of the trees” in the Aarey milk colony by cancelling the metro car shed project, which was to be established there. In the run-up to the Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Shiv Sena had fiercely protested the project to save the ‘Aarey forest’. This was despite the clearance from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the nod of the Bombay High Court (BHC).
After coming to power, the Uddhav Thackeray govt had stalled the project and, after that, allotted an alternate site. But since coming to power, the Shiv Sena-led government has allowed the axing of trees to make way for several other projects.
The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which often advocates for eco-conservation by cancelling the metro project at Aarey on ‘concerns’ that trees are being cut, earlier took a U-turn by deciding to axe more than 300 trees for the construction of a metro line the elevated Metro-2A corridor between Dahisar and DN Nagar.
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray has been extremely vocal on the issues of environmental conversation. The young Sena prince had opposed the BJP government’s decision to the felling of trees at Aarey Milk colony to construct a Metro shed.
However, just a month after extreme activism by Shiv Sena to impress its coalition parties – Congress and NCP, Sena exposed its hypocrisy by ordering the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation to chop down 1,000 trees for a Bal Thackeray memorial in Priyadarshini Park. Interestingly, the environmental activists, NGOs and liberals who had hit the streets to protest against the then BJP government in the state for axing the trees at Aarey colony have now suspiciously chosen to remain silent.