The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to restrain Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) from cutting trees across south Mumbai for its Metro 3 project.
A Vacation Bench comprising Justices P.D. Naik and M.S. Karnik observed that while it was concerned about the trees, a middle ground has to be arrived at when development projects are involved. The Bench was hearing an application filed by residents alleging authorities were illegally felling trees.
Judges express concern for trees, but say ‘middle ground’ is needed for development projects
On May 5, the HC had noted that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) will file an undertaking and appointed the member-secretary, Maharashtra Legal Services Authority and the Deputy Registrar to oversee compliance in regard to replantation and transplantation of the trees.
Advocate Mustafa Doctor, appearing for MMRCL, told the court that only those trees marked by the BMC are being cut and MMRCL was following all norms. The BMC’s counsel, Anil Sakhre, also submitted that officials from the civic body, HC and the legal services authority had inspected all sites in south Mumbai where trees were being cut to ensure compliance with norms.
Accepting the statements, the court said as long as authorities were complying with earlier HC orders, 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 has now posted the matter for further hearing on June 5.
One site engineer for Larsen and Toubro overseeing Metro 3, said 51 trees will be cut and 47 will be transplanted for the construction of the Churchgate Metro station. “We will first expose, or dig up, an area of 15 metres around them, and then dig down to the root line and lift the entire tree out of the ground. The roots tend to go 20 feet to 30 feet deep for trees as big as these. We have to save their primary roots, that’s the main concern. We trim the branches beforehand so that once the roots have been dug up, we can transplant the tree directly. The MMRCL will inform engineers about transplantion sites.”
A resident, alleged tree numbers had been changed, and no BMC Tree Officer was present where trees were being felled as mandated by the court. “A committee to look into residents’ grievances has not been formed even after a week, and there has been a slaughter of trees across the city.” Protesters are hoping this and the skewed ratio of tree officers will buy them some time till the Committee is set up on May 29.
Over 5,000 trees are proposed to be cut in various parts of Mumbai for the Metro project. The HC had earlier stayed the cutting of trees, but vacated the same on May 5. The court had allowed MMRCL to cut trees after it gave an undertaking that for each tree it cuts in south Mumbai, another would be planted at the same spot after construction is over. This would be in addition to three saplings that MMRCL will plant in suburban Mumbai for every tree it cuts.