The controversial Metro car shed project in Mumbai's Aarey colony can continue, but the freeze on tree cutting will remain, the Supreme Court said today. The court also asked for a White Paper on the issue, seeking details on the trees cut, transplanted and those that survived the transplant.
More than 2,000 trees of Aarey Colony - a green area amid the urban sprawl of Goregon -- were chopped between October 4 and 6, before the freeze was announced by the top court. The order came after the Maharashtra government said it had cut down the trees it needed to for its plan to clear 33 hectares of Aarey land for the project.
The car shed project triggered huge controversy since it was announced two years ago. The environmentalists want the green belt - having more than five lakh trees and home to a wide variety of birds and animals - declared a forest area. The green belt also has 27 tribal villages.
On October 4, the Bombay High Court cancelled four petitions seeking to declare the area a forest. The tree felling began within hours, sparking protests from environmental activists and a stand-off with Mumbai Police that resulted in 29 people being arrested.
The matter was taken to the top court by a group of students, who wrote to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, asking the court to stop the felling urgently. Despite the Dusshera holidays, the court held an emergency hearing and ordered that no more trees be cut till further orders.
"What is required to be cut has been cut. No further cutting of trees is required," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court on behalf of the Maharashtra government.
The Maharashtra government has claimed that over 20,000 trees had been planted to make up for the loss of Aarey's trees.
In today's hearing, the court said there would be no cutting of trees till the next hearing on November 15.