Observing that it cannot permit massive and indiscriminate damage to the environment, the Bombay High Court today restrained the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the BMC from cutting trees as part of the Seepz-Colaba Metro line project, till further orders. A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a petition filed by the residents of Churchgate in south Mumbai against the cutting of over 5,000 trees to pave way for the Metro line.
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“Prima facie we feel there has to be a serious concern over the issue because the trees that will be cut are more than 5,000 in number. Such massive destruction to the environment cannot be allowed without first seeing if measures can be taken to save the trees,” Chief Justice Chellur said.
The High Court said that an independent committee may be set up to look into the issue.
“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Metro (MMRDA) have sought time to respond till tomorrow. Meanwhile, we make it clear that none of the authorities will proceed to cut any tree till further orders. You will not touch a single tree,” the bench said.
Advocate Kiran Bagalia, appearing for the MMRDA, told the court that they have taken permission from the Tree Authority of India to cut the trees.
Senior Counsel Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for the petitioners, contended that the Tree Authority of India has given the permission without proper application of mind.
“We can have a separate independent committee which can go around and study and file a report. There is bound to be some casualty (to trees) but it cannot be indiscriminate,” the court observed.
“The authority needs to handle the problem from the angle of how to save the trees. What are the safety measures you can take? Can’t you replant the trees elsewhere? Minimum damage needs to be done to the environment,” it said.
The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for tomorrow.