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Why SC allowed govt to remove 177 trees from Aarey forest?

The SC on April 17, 2023, criticized Mumbai Metro for attempting to exceed the limit of 84 trees that could be felled in Aarey Forest

By Ground report
New Update
Why SC allowed govt to remove 177 trees from Aarey forest?

The Supreme Court on April 17, 2023, criticized Mumbai Metro for attempting to exceed the limit of 84 trees that could be felled in Aarey Forest for a carport project, which had been allowed in a previous court order.

Court allows tree removal for metro

The court ordered Mumbai Metro to pay a fine of Rs 10 lakhs for his conduct. However, the court allowed the removal of 177 trees to build the metro car shed in accordance with the decision of the forestry authority of March 15, which states that the suspension of the felling of trees would cause the paralysis of public projects.

The presiding judge rebuked Mumbai Metro at the beginning of the hearing, stating that they cannot overreach themselves in court and that Mumbai Metro officers should be sent to jail.

The court noted that Mumbai Metro had tried to exceed its jurisdiction and that it should have approached the court instead of asking the forestry authority to cut down more than the 84 trees allowed.

The court ordered Mumbai Metro to provide Rs 10 lakh to the forest conservator within two weeks and instructed the conservator to ensure all directed afforestation is completed.

Court also requested the director of IIT Bombay to send a team to check compliance and submit a report in three weeks.

The Aarey Project

The Aarey Project is a controversial plan to build a subway car shed at the Aarey Milk Colony, a 1,800-acre urban forest in the suburbs of Goregaon, Mumbai.

The project was proposed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) and supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Maharashtra government, which chose Aarey Colony as the site for the car shed in 2014.

The proposal was met with opposition from environmentalists, activists, and neighbours who argued that the construction of the shed would lead to the destruction of a vital ecosystem and the displacement of various species of flora and fauna.

The controversy surrounding the Aarey Project reached the Supreme Court of India, which ordered the MMRCL to strictly abide by its commitment that no trees would be felled in the Aarey Colony. The court also warned that any violation of this commitment would result in strict action.

Many activists and environmentalists have called for a more sustainable approach to development, one that takes into account the impact of infrastructure projects on the environment and the people who live there.

The Aarey Project has become a rallying cry for this movement, with many calling for a rethinking of development policies and a greater emphasis on environmental conservation.

Politics behind Aarey Project

The dispute over the construction of a metro car shed at Aarey has been ongoing since 2014 and has caused significant conflict between Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP-led Maharashtra government, under then-Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, chose Aarey Milk Colony, a 1,800-acre urban forest in suburban Goregaon, as the site for the car shed.

However, Shiv Sena, a partner in the government, opposed the move, with Aaditya Thackeray, leader of the Yuva Sena, at the helm.

After taking office, Uddhav Thackeray, who succeeded Fadnavis as Chief Minister, halted the Aarey project, stating that the shed would be built on the Kanjurmarg salt flats. He also declared around 800 acres of land in Aarey as reserve forest.

However, after a change of government in Maharashtra, Prime Minister Eknath Shinde annulled Uddhav Thackeray's decision in 2022, leading to allegations of felling trees in the Aarey forest region in violation of the Court's standstill ruling. Suprema, according to several requests from activists and locals.

In August 2022, the High Court ordered MMRCL to honour its commitment not to cut down any trees in Aarey, warning of dire consequences if it failed to comply. The felling of trees in the area has been rejected by environmentalists and locals.

After coming to power, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis overturned the previous government's decision to move Aarey's car shed.

In October 2019, the Bombay High Court rejected a petition to declare Aarey a forest and stop the felling of more than 2,600 trees to build the Metro car shed.

Save Aarey movement

In 2014, the 'Save Aarey' movement was started when the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, proposed to build a facility to wash and maintain Metro carriages for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro project at Aarey Milk Colony.

Environmentalists have warned against felling trees in Aarey Forest as it would lead to a threat of human-animal conflict and loss of habitat for many animals and birds.

The forest is vital to Mumbai's well-being, providing fresh air and protecting the ecosystem, which is home to many endemic species. Activists have been advocating for peaceful protests, emphasizing that development and urbanization must not come at the expense of the environment.

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