Hours after the Bombay High Court cancelled four petitions challenging the cutting of trees at Mumbai's Aarey Colony for a metro car shed, the process in the green belt began on Friday evening.
Activists gathered at Aarey Colony after a video showing a tree being cut there was widely circulated on social media. The activists claimed the trees were being cut illegally.
Rules say once the Tree Committee approves cutting, the order should be uploaded on a government website. Trees can be cut 15 days after posting the document on the website, sources say.
After the video surfaced, Congress leader Jignesh Mevani tweeted an appeal to the people of Mumbai to resist the "illegal" action.
"Urgent request to Mumbaikars: Authorities have already started cutting trees in Aarey after the order passed by the BHC today. Citizens are reaching Aarey forest to stop this. I request Mumbaikars to reach and resist this move right now," he tweeted.
Urgent request to Mumbaikars:— Jignesh Mevani (@jigneshmevani80) October 4, 2019
Authorities have already started cutting trees in Aarey after the order passed by the BHC today. Citizens are reaching Aaarey forest to stop this. I request Mumbaikars to reach and resist this move right now. #SaveAareyForest#SaveAareypic.twitter.com/Ng5Yfv61gu
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray slammed the centre over tree cutting.
There's no point for the Central government ministry of climate change to exist, or to speak about plastic pollution when the @MumbaiMetro3 senselessly destroys the Aarey vicinity. This ego battle taken up by Metro 3 is destroying the purpose of making it.— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) October 4, 2019
For the last two years, environmentalists have been protesting the decision of constructing a car shed for Mumbai Metro at Aarey Colony, which has more than five lakh trees.
Activists had approached the Bombay High Court to stall the government's car shed plan. The court, however, refused to intervene, saying the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal.
"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 on Friday.
The Aarey protest has become a big issue in Mumbai, with actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar supporting the government.