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Mumbai Metro Says 2,141 Trees in Aarey Already Felled, Will Start Construction in Cleared Area

Local citizens protest against the cutting of trees in Aarey forest to pave way for metro car shed, in Mumbai on August 31, 2019. (Image: PTI)

Local citizens protest against the cutting of trees in Aarey forest to pave way for metro car shed, in Mumbai on August 31, 2019. (Image: PTI)

The MMRC said no future tree felling will be carried out at the site till the Supreme Court gives any further directions.

Mumbai: The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) on Monday said 2,141 trees in North Mumbai's Aarey Colony have already been felled for the construction of a car shed, hours after the Supreme Court stayed the chopping of more trees in the city's 'green lung'.

In a release, the MMRC said no future tree felling will be carried out at the site till the Supreme Court gives any further directions, but construction activity in the area from where the tree were cleared will be started.

The MMRCL's statement confirms the state government's earlier interpretation of the top court order that only said "status quo (is) to be maintained... with respect to cutting of trees".

During Monday's hearing, the special Supreme Court bench hearing the petition against the felling of trees had observed that Aarey is "a no development zone", and not a eco-sensitive zone as was claimed by the petitioner. Construction activity cannot be carried out in a 'no development zone'.

The original plan was to cut 2,646 trees, but on Monday, the Maharashtra government signalled that it would construct the shed in the already cleared area by telling the apex court, "whatever was required to be cut has already been done".

The MMRCL had started cutting the trees from Friday night, just hours after the Bombay High Court refused to declare Aarey colony a forest and declined to quash the Mumbai municipal corporation's decision to allow felling of over trees in the green zone despite massive opposition by green activists and local residents.

The move in the middle of the night had triggered angry protests. As many as 29 protesters were arrested for allegedly obstructing and assaulting police personnel during the felling of trees.

In a defence of its actions, the MMRC said that it has already planted 23,846 trees and additionally distributed 25,000 saplings as part of its green initiatives. "The work on the project has

already been delayed by over 6 months on account of the legal and other impediments. We still expect to meet the deadline,” the MMRC added.