For the second time within two months, the Supreme Court has intervened to stop the felling of trees for the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority’ (MMRD) Metro rail projects. On Monday, the apex court stayed, for two weeks, the axing of trees on the Metro Line 4 (Wadala to Kasarvadali via Thane). Last month, it had ordered no tree be cut in the Aarey colony forest area for the Metro car shed.
Thane resident Rohit Joshi, through advocate Pooja Dhar, filed a plea challenging the Bombay High Court’s November 25 order vacating the stay on the felling of trees for the Metro 4 line project to be constructed by the MMRDA. The High Court had vacated the stay passed by a different bench in October, observing that public projects cannot be stalled.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, asked the counsel for the petitioner if they have challenged the decision of the authority, which approved the felling of the trees for the project. While granting a stay on the felling of the trees, the court asked the petitioner’s counsel to move the Bombay High Court.
“Counsel appearing for the petitioner undertakes to carry out the amendments before the High Court within one week from today. On that assurance, there shall be an injunction restraining the authorities concerned from felling trees for two weeks from today,” the top court said.
Joshi contended the permission granted for cutting of the trees violated the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Conservation of Trees Act 1975, which requires public notice by advertising in local newspapers, and fixing notice on the trees, which have been identified for felling, and holding an inquiry. “No such procedure was followed in this case,” he said in his plea.
The petitioner contends that the Tree Authority did not consider any public objections before granting permission to fell trees and that the High Court had erred in not identifying that preventing the destruction of ecology is, in fact, of greater public interest, in comparison with the construction of the Metro project.
“Elevated line will result in loss of green cover through the entire corridor of 32 Kms… Destruction of Mangroves has already begun for construction of a casting yard,” he said in his petition.