Conservationists in Mumbai are expected to approach the Bombay High Court after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's Tree Authority decision on Thursday to clear the cutting of 2,700 trees at Aarey Colony for an upcoming Metro Car shed as part of the Mumbai Metrorail project. One of the expert committee members, Shashirekha Iyer, told NDTV, "The vote was held in a chaotic situation and her vote was counted as yes in the pandemonium."
Speaking to NDTV on the phone, Shashirekha Iyer added, "I stick to my earlier stand and I have never yes to cutting of trees at Aarey."
In demanding that the car shed be shifted to an alternate location and the Aarey trees be saved, conservationists have argued that Aarey is a forest that has wildlife including leopards and needs to be protected to ensure Mumbai has clean air and the ecological balance is maintained.
The issue has now evolved into a political hot potato over the decision by the city's civic body the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC's tree authority to allow more than 2,700 trees to be cut after the Tree Authority meeting. The permission from the tree authority was pending and activists had hoped the tree authority would stop the cutting of trees, especially since some of the expert members had said that they were opposed to it.
In a series of tweets, Shiv Sena's Aditya Thackeray blamed the Congress for walking out of such an important meeting, hinting at a fixed match. The Congress members have said they were not aware of a vote and walked out after making their objections.
Aaditya Thackeray, who has spoken out for not cutting trees said he hopes Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will not fall for misleading reports and will continue to champion the cause of climate change. The BJP voted in favour of tree cutting at Aarey.
In a series of tweets, Mr Thackeray said, "I still have hope that the CM will do away with the misleading reports on Aarey that say there's no wildlife there, go with the sentiment of Mumbaikars and environment. We are championing the cause of climate change globally and we must save whatever we can, where we have an option."
"Or may be, deforestation is correct, even when there's an option. What use are trees anyway? And of course when the metro needs more money later, we have Aarey to commercially exploit, who needs oxygen? Even the court appointed experts feel the same!" Mr Thackeray added in another tweet.
"We all want sustainable development and when there's an option to save the environment and especially a green area where leopards and other species roam free within a city, the government must save it. It's not that there's no option. It's stubbornness," Mr Thackeray added.
The Shiv Sena maintains that the Metro Project is absolutely necessary for Mumbai and it will be a great boon for Mumbaikars. However, according to citizen's groups, with available options that would save the trees, only the Shiv Sena seems to have voted against cutting of trees.
Activist Stalin Dayanand told NDTV, "There was no discussion and this proposal has been moved before the Tree Authority. What happened yesterday was a sham of a meeting. Only the Shiv Sena voted against cutting trees to protect Aarey. Other members say they were never told of a vote. We are getting further clarifications from members of the authority. One of the expert members told us she did not even know that it was being cleared. They pulled a fast one on the members itself. We will go back to the High Court and inform them about what is going on. We are all for the Metro and we are just asking them to relocate the car shed."
Metro authorities say trees cut will be replanted or transplanted and the metro will reduce pollution by making people shift to public transport instead of cars and the pros and cons balance themselves out but those opposing the cutting of trees disagree saying the along the functional Metro route in Mumbai, there has been no decrease in traffic.
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