NEW DELHI/MUMBAI :
THE Supreme Court on Monday restrained authorities from cutting any more trees in Mumbai’s Aarey colony for a Metro car shed but its order came amid an admission by the Maharashtra Government that whatever was required to be cut has already been done. The order for status quo was given by a bench specially constituted after the apex court took suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a letter petition addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by law student Rishav Ranjan seeking a stay on felling of trees in the colony.
The apex court is on a week-long Dussehra break from Monday. The Bombay High Court on October 4 refused to declare Aarey colony a forest and declined to quash the Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a Metro car shed. The felling of trees in the colony has been opposed by green activists and local residents. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRCL) started cutting the trees from Friday night to make way for the car shed triggering angry protests, hours after the High Court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision. As many as 29 protesters were arrested for allegedly obstructing and assaulting police personnel during the felling of trees.
They were released from jail in the wee hours of Monday after being granted bail by a local court, officials said. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra and Mumbai’s civic body, told the special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan that whatever was required to be cut for the Metro car shed has already been done and they would not fell any more trees. “We will decide this. Do not cut more trees,” the bench said, adding, “Do not cut anything now.” It further said: “As undertaken, status quo be maintained till the next date of hearing with respect to cutting of trees.”
“Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General appearing for the State of Maharashtra, has stated that they are not going to cut any further trees till the next date of hearing. In the circumstances, the statement is quite fair,” it said. The court said its forest bench would take up the matter for further hearing on October 21. Opposition NCP leader Supriya Sule welcomed the apex court order but said what was worrying was the admission of the Maharashtra Government that the necessary number of trees have already been cut. Shiv Sena said the court order is a “moral victory” for environmentalists. Maneesha Kayande, spokesperson of the Sena, which is an ally of the ruling BJP but has been opposing tree felling in the city’s green belt, said it was the Government’s “mistake” not to declare Aarey area as a forest and rued that nearly “2,100 trees’ have been cut in two days.
‘India’s green cover up by 15k sq km’
NEW DELHI :
INDIA’S green cover has increased by 15,000 square kilometres, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday. Responding to a question on the issue of felling trees in Mumbai’s Aarey forest, in which the Supreme Court has restrained authorities from cutting anymore trees, Javadekar told the reporters here that he would not like to comment on a sub judice matter.
“The Supreme Court has given a decision on it, so I will not comment on the matter,” he told a press conference at the Ministry. The Environment Minister, however, said, “If you cut one tree, you plant and ensure the growth of five trees.” Asked if afforestation has worked, Javadekar replied, “In the last four years, the green cover of the country has increased by 15,000 square kilometres. There are only a few countries in the world whose green cover has increased and those include India.” The apex court on Monday restrained authorities from cutting anymore trees in Aarey Colony in Mumbai to build a Metro car shed. According to a petition filed in the Supreme Court, it was Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to allow felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro car shed and 1,500 trees have already been cut by the authorities.
The Union Minister also appealed to the people not to burst fire crackers this Diwali. If anyone wanted to burst them at all, he advised them opting for green crackers launched recently. In his press conference, Javadekar also said even the national capital faces several pollution related challenges but they can be tackled as the Central Government has taken a slew of measures for the purpose in the last four years.