Authorities began felling trees in Mumbai’s Aarey forest on Friday evening, hours after the Bombay High Court rejected petitions asking for the area to be declared a protected forest, The Times of India reported. The trees were to be cut to build a metro car shed.
Earlier in the day, the court had dismissed a batch of petitions against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to allow the cutting of 2,646 trees in Aarey forest, which lies in the northern part of the city. Last month, the government had told the court that the area cannot be given the status of a forest.
Some activists claimed on Twitter that the trees were being felled illegally as an order to do so needs to be uploaded by a government website 15 days in advance. However, the Mumbai metro authority tweeted a link to such an order, which is dated September 13.
Nearly 300 people gathered at the site to stop the authorities, Mumbai Mirror reported.
There have been protests in the last few weeks against the civic body’s decision to cut the trees on 30 hectares of Aarey land to build the metro car depot. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited, which implements the metro project, had promised to compensate by planting thrice as many saplings elsewhere, but protestors had demanded that the car shed be shifted to another site.
One of the pleas dismissed by High Court Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharti Dangre challenged the August 29 resolution of the civic body’s Tree Authority to cut the trees. It was filed by environmentalist Zoru Bhathena. The second petition was filed by non-governmental organisation Vanashakti, which urged the court to declare more than 1,000 hectares of Aarey Colony an “ecologically sensitive zone” under the Indian Forest Act.
Last month, protestors had camped outside actor Amitabh Bachchan’s bungalow in the city’s Juhu locality after Bachchan tweeted in support of the metro project. The police even detained 22 students, who protested under the banner of Vidhyarthi Bharatiya Sanghatana. They carried posters calling for saving the Aarey forest.
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