Lungs of Mumbai Under Threat: Over 2000 Trees In Aarey Forest Cut Since Friday Night
Famously known as the green lungs of Mumbai, the Aarey colony is being set for the execution of Metro 3 project in the darkness of night and under heavy security.
Hours after the Bombay High Court overruled petitions challenging the felling of trees in Aarey Milk Colony, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has axed over 2000 trees in just 24 hours since Friday night.
MMRCL stationed around 70 men for clearing the area demarcated for the car shed. They are expected to cut down 2,185 trees and transplant 461 other trees for the project.
The axing of trees led to a series of protests across the city which resulted in the police arresting as many as 29 protestors, imposing Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure and restricting the movements of people in Aarey Colony and the nearby areas.
“We were prepared since the Tree Authority had given a go-ahead last month. On, Friday evening when we got the judgment in our favor, we started the work as we are already 12 months behind schedule for the car shed,” said a senior MMRCL officer about the axing.
The MMRCL axed 450 trees in just 2 hours since 9 pm on Friday but the work was halted for one and a half hours, between 11 pm to 12:30 am, due to the protests by the local tribes.
On Saturday morning, around 500 police personnel were deployed to manage all the three roads which gave access to Aarey Colony. All the people who wanted to enter the colony had to provide a photo identity, address proof or permit at every check points.
Meanwhile, the tribals living at Aarey Colony were largely enforced to stay indoors or were restricted from entering their own settlements due to the imposition of Section 144.
Devki Bhoe, a resident of Vanitapada, had left for college early morning on Saturday without any police constrains, but by the time she returned curfew was imposed. She had to wait for her father to bring her identity proof to enter the colony as she was not carrying one, reported the Indian Express.
The felling of trees also led to a high voltage political drama with the opposition blaming the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena for “the slaughter of trees.” The Congress also went on to criticize the double standards of Shiv Sena who rebuked the BMC for felling of trees but continue to support the BJP.
Clearing Shiv Sena’s stand on the issue, their youth wing President, Aaditya Thackeray said, “Our hands are tied due to the polls and code of conduct. But, when we return to power, we will ensure that Aarey is declared as a forest.”