- Four petitions challenging cutting of trees were cancelled by high court
- Order amid row over cutting for over 2,600 trees for metro car shed
- Aarey Colony, with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is Mumbai's green lung
The Bombay High Court has refused to declare Mumbai's Aarey Colony a forest amid a raging row over the proposed cutting of over 2,600 trees to make way for a metro car shed. Four petitions challenging the cutting of trees were cancelled by the court today, which said "The greens (environmentalists) have failed."
For the last two years, environmentalists have been protesting the decision by Mumbai's civic body's Tree Authority of constructing a car shed for Mumbai Metro at Aarey, which has more than five lakh trees.
"The greens (environmentalists) fail in the instant petition because they have lost touch with the procedure to be followed as per law. The clock cannot be put back. We do not make any comments thereon as the petitioner has to now swim or sink before the Supreme Court... 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," a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre said.
The court called all the petitioners "Davids" taking on the industrial "Goliaths", apparently suggesting that they are fighting an unequal battle.
"Relationship with nature and love for environment alone is true and all other relationships are unreal and temporary, is their (environmentalists) belief. Their hearts are a temple of devotion to flora and fauna," the court said.
"In the instant case, the Davids (environmentalists) row their boat with faith, courage and devotion in the storm of development but directionless," the bench said in its judgment.
Environmental activist Zoru Bathena, who filed the petition challenging a decision to allow the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to cut 2,646 trees in Aarey, said he will approach the Supreme Court. The activist also wanted Aarey be declared a floodplain.
Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon, together with Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as the green lung of the metropolis.
The high court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav, who had filed a petition against the approval granted by the civic body's tree authority. He is a member of the tree authority.
The tree authority's approval is mandatory for felling of more than 20 trees at a time at any place in the financial capital.
Several celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar have come out and praised the Mumbai Metro project, upsetting activists fighting for Aarey. Last month, protests were seen outside Mr Bachchan's home in Mumbai.