MMRC to plant 6 times the trees it will cut, says expert.
Mumbai: The Tree Authority on Thursday sanctioned the proposal to remove 2,702 trees from Aarey to make way for the Metro 3 car shed. Out of the 2,702 trees, 2,238 will be axed while the rest will be transplanted.
The proposal received backing from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and five independent tree experts.
While six members of the Tree Authority are from the Shiv Sena, four belong to the BJP. The Congress has two members, while the NCP has one member. There are also five independent experts.
It is to be noted that the proposal to axe the trees had received 82,000 registered objections from citizens opposing the deforestation at Aarey.
“The MMRC has agreed to plant six times the trees that will be cut in Aarey. We have suggested technicalities for transplantation too. We are not against the project but environmental balance is needed,” Subhash Patane, an expert member of the committee, said.
Meanwhile, the decision has taken a political turn, with the Sena slamming the BJP for alleged hypocrisy.
“Even as the BJP has been urging people to plant more trees, it also supports the axing of trees. We will approach the court over this decision,” said standing committee chairman and Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav.
Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackarey, too, expressed his disappointment. “Shiv Sena continued its stand and voted against hacking of trees in Aarey and fought to find alternative site for metro carshed which is available. We all want sustainable development. 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!” (sic), the Thackeray scion tweeted.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Manoj Kotak reiterated that the metro project will not harm the environment.
Only 3-4 penalised under 1975 Act
Mumbai: The number of people penalised for illegal tree cutting has remained low, with not more than three to four people penalised for the crime in the last ten years.
This is despite the joint commissioner of police (law and order) issuing a circular in September 1997, directing the police to penalise those indulging the act.
Illegal cutting of trees attracts a mimimum fine of `1,000 or one week of punishment.
“The police does take cognisance of the complaints. However, as the case reaches court, the judicial matters take years to resolve. At times, the complainant does not appear for court hearings. Due to such delays, not more than 3-4 offenders have been penalised in last ten years,” a BMC official said.
On September 29, 1997, then joint commissioner of police (law and order) had issued a circular instructing the police to take cognisance of illegal tree cuttings under the Maharashtra (Urban Trees) Preservation of Trees Act, 1975.
As per the 1975 Act, it is necessary to obtain prior permission of Tree Authority for cutting trees.
“The circular was issued taking into consideration increasing urbanisation and industrialisation and consequently the destruction of the trees. However, we hardly see any action taken against illegal cutting of trees. Even if the Tree Authority has granted permission, the contractors have to carry a copy of the permission letter with them. Initially, whenever we found any contractor/person chopping trees without permission, we used to call police and it used to respond. However, in last 5-6 months, the police simply asks us to approach the BMC,” said tree activist Zoru Bathena.