Mumbai: Bombay High Court on Friday (October 4) dismissed a petition to declare Aarey Colony a forest. The decision eventually paved way for the felling of 2,700 trees for a Mumbai Metro car shed.

A bench comprising of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre dismissed two petitions regarding the Aarey forest situation. One was filed by Vanshakti, an NGO, to declare Aarey Colony as an ecologically sensitive zone. The other by activist Zoru Bhathena challenging the civic body’s approval to Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to cut trees in Aarey Colony at Goregaon.

Besides defeating the petitions, the bench also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav. The latter filed a plea against the approval granted by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Tree Authority. Jadhav is Chairman of the Tree Authority. Interestingly, the appeal was dismissed not on its “merits”, but on the principle of “commonality”. The court observed that the relief sought in this plea lies with the Supreme Court or National Green Tribunal.

Zoru Bhathena said, “We will now move the Supreme Court as the Bombay HC dismissed the plea saying that the matter is pending before the apex court. Besides, MMRCL can cut the trees only 15 days after Tree Authority uploads the permission on its website and they haven’t done it yet.”

The felling of trees in Aarey for the metro car shed became a burning issue in Mumbai. Several activists took to the streets to oppose the proposed car shed. The issue also became a topic of discussion on social media platforms. Supporters of ‘Save Aarey’ cause are vehemently opposing the move, maintaining that Aarey is Mumbai’s only forest and thus, should be spared from getting destroyed.

Human chains were formed on Mumbai streets to express their anguish against the Maharashtra government. While activist claimed that Aarey is a forest, MMRCL justified that it is not a forest area. Moreover, the delay in the construction of the car shed will cause a loss of Rs 4.23 crore per day to the public exchequer.

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