Aarey Tree-Felling: Activists Protest as Police Restrict Entry

Following the dismissal of all petitions by Bombay HC, authorities began cutting trees on Friday night.

Updated
Environment
3 min read

Video Producer: Debayan Dutta

Video Editor: Md. Ibrahim

After the tree-felling in Aarey forest began on the night of Friday, 4 October, Mumbai Police on Saturday imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC in the area near the metro-rail project site, reported news agency ANI.

Mumbai Police also barricaded the three entrances to Aarey Colony, Powai, Western Express Highway and Marol in the city.

The move came as protesters tried to enter the area where trees were being cut.

Following the dismissal of all petitions by Bombay HC against the felling of over 2,600 trees in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony for the construction of Metro car shed, authorities began cutting trees on Friday night, a move, that activists claim to be illegal, leading to overnight protests and unrest.

According to activists, the felling of trees in not supposed to begin for 15 days after the authorities have the required permission.

Sources told The Quint that over 30 activists have been detained since Friday night.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi was also detained on Saturday.

“In Dahisar Police station, 26 or more people were detained. Out of them nine are women. Out of nine women five are Adivasis and four are college students,” Activist Amrita Bhattacharjee told The Quint.

Bhattacharjee said nine more people have been detained at the Aarey police station, adding that she wasn’t sure if more people were detained in other areas.

According to rules, as quoted by NDTV, once a tree committee approves cutting, the order should be uploaded on a government website and the trees can be cut only 15 days after posting the permission.

Videos and pictures being shared by activists across social media showed that authorities, however, already began felling the trees at the site of the car shed in the colony.

“We are not able to reach the site where the trees have been cut exactly. But we estimate 300-400 trees to have been cut. The authorities came with concerned people and started cutting around 7:30pm. They were spotted by locals who alerted us. Can’t even think of the number of birds which would have been killed because of this tree cutting,” Amrita, an activist told The Quint.

Several activists and citizens marched to Aarey in a bid to stop cutting of the trees. The videos also showed some protestors being heckled by the police, amid deployment of personnel in the area.

The Bombay HC Verdict

The Bombay HC on Friday refused to declare Aarey Colony a forest area and also declined to quash a BMC decision allowing felling of over 2,600 trees in the suburban green zone for the construction of a metro car shed.

A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and environment activists related to Aarey Colony in Goregaon, a major green lung of the metropolis.

“The issue is pending before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. Hence, we are dismissing the petition on the principle of commonality and not on merits,” the court said.

The division bench dismissed a plea by the city-based NGO Vanshakti to declare Aarey Colony a forest area. The NGO has been asked to approach National Green Tribunal and Supreme Court.

“Since the Godavarman case is pending before the Supreme Court, the remedy for declaring an area a forest relies with the Supreme Court. That’s why we have been asked to approach the Supreme Court.”
Stalin Dayanand, Director of Vanashakti & Petitioner  

It also dismissed a petition filed by activist Zoru Bathena seeking that Aarey be declared a floodplain and challenging the civic body's approval to Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd to cut trees in Aarey Colony.

The bench imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav, who had filed a plea against the approval granted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's tree authority. Jadhav is a member of the tree authority.

Background

Environment activists are opposed to felling of trees in Aarey Colony, which, together with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as the green lung of the metropolis.

Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have argued that metro is in larger public interest, pointing out that it will wean people away from using cars, taxis and two-wheelers and result in sharp reduction in pollution.

MMRCL, in its affidavit, also said Aarey Colony was not a naturally forested area as claimed by the petitioner. The delay in construction of the car shed will cause a loss of Rs 4.23 crore per day, it said, according to PTI.

(With inputs from NDTV and PTI)

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