The entire social media is flooded with posts, tweets, statements and claims on the deforestation in Aarey Milk Colony. What is the insight of it? What is leading to these protests? We bring all your answers right here, point by point.
In the month of August 2019, a proposal was made by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation to Tree Authority under Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation regarding cutting of trees in Aarey colony in order to construct a Mumbai Metro car shed.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) wants to locate its metro car shed within the forest.
They have demanded the denotification of 165 Ha of forest land for this purpose. A week ago, the approval was granted to the BMC for felling 2,702 trees of which 2,238 were to be cut and the remaining were to be transplanted.
As soon as the news grabbed some public eyes, it pulled many protesters and activists against the indiscriminate cutting of the trees in the region because the Aarey colony is considered as a precious green patch.
One of the experts on the Tree Authority, Dr Sashirekha Sureshkumar, who is also the head of Botany at Mithibai College claimed that her vote supporting the proposal was misconstrued due to misunderstandings.
According to a report, she stated “There was a lot of confusion. Some people were demanding more time. When the proposal was passed, I was under the impression that it was to make the decision later. But after some time, I realised it was for the Metro proposal. We did not have any time to clarify as there was a lot of commotion.”
The decision has taken the entire world of social media by storm with many celebrities joining the protest and expressing their concerns over twitter. A petition filed by Zoru Darius Bathena challenged the proposal in Bombay High Court. There are also demands of FIR be lodged against the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) for felling trees on the proposed site.
But, do we know the flip side to it? Do such decisions come in a haste or are well-thought and well-panned off Yes, trees are crucial for the environment, but in this case, the benefits in terms of environment protection outweigh the ill effects of cutting a tree, like-
Low harmful emissions from private vehicles
Drastic reduction of traffic
Aarey Colony is an area of over 1300 hectares out of which 25 hectares of land is required for the metro car depot construction. In fact, land isn’t forest area but belonged to the Dairy Development Department of the state government.
Why not relocate the car shed?
Protesters have proposed the car shed to be shifted to Kanjurmarg, but it will not only increase the project cost by crores but will also delay the project, thereby leading to more surge in environmental pollution till the completion is achieved.
On April 15, 2019, The Supreme Court dismissed an application filed by Aarey Conservation Group seeking alternative sites for the Metro car shed proposed as the bench said that alternative options had been looked into and found non-viable by MMRCL and a state-appointed technical committee. On July 8, 2019, the BMC held a public hearing to hear citizen’s objections’ on the cutting/ transplanting of trees. The hearing was attended by over 800 citizens, and they received over 82,000 emails.
As per the latest update on BMC’s official website, the permission for removal of trees in the proposed construction of Metro Car Depot for Metro III Project has been mentioned clearly, dated 13 September 2019.
As per the same permit, some of the important points to consider are: BMC is to plant 13,110 trees in the said property within 30 days, which is six times more than the trees being cut.
BMC is also directed to give the undertaking to take good care of newly planted trees.
The felling of trees without the permission shall be liable for separate offence.
BMC is requested to plant an indigenous variety of trees having a circumference of 6” above and height of 15” above. The list of indigenous trees had been provided with the permit itself.
BMC had been guided to work under the guidance of a Horticulture expert for any sort of technical assistance.
The current ruling Government under CM Devendra Fadnavis definitely has worked towards the betterment of the environment, if we go by statistics:
More than 55 crore trees have been planted in the state
The national target of 33% greening has been committed
Digital Forest Governance has been established
The tree cover on the non-forest area has been increased by 273 square kilometers
Water bodies in forest areas have been increased by 432 square kilometers.
So, it might not just be a one-sided story of deforestation, careful precautionary measures have been taken for re-plantation and environment conservation as well. Still not convinced? Think from this perspective- what causes actual damage to the environment? Is it the vehicles or we humans present pretty much inside those vehicles? Can we blame the Government alone? Certainly not.
Taking cues from DMRC
Did you know The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has been certified by the United Nations (UN) as the First Metro Rail and Rail based system in the world which has been lauded with carbon credits for reducing Green House Gas Emissions as it has helped to reduce pollution levels in the city by 6.3 lakh tons every year thus helping in reducing global warming.
Isn’t there a bigger picture always involved? The commuters if travelling in their own vehicles versus travelling in public transports is surely going to benefit the environment in the long run, if not immediately today, and we must make ourselves able to foresee the situation. Like it happened with Delhi. Delhi Metro has helped remove more than 91 thousand vehicles from the roads of Delhi daily.
As per the official website of DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation), the resource efficiency of transporting passengers in Delhi by Metro has improved i.e. emissions per passenger kilometer are reduced compared to the situation without project i.e. had the Delhi Metro not operated.
Maybe we can expect the same results in our very own Financial Capital aka Mumbai quite soon in the near future. As per the data on the official website of MMRCL, once the metros are fully operational, there is expected to be a reduction in air pollution, and improvement in air quality.
MML-3 is committed to preserve the environment. As commuters would start to prefer the comforts of metro over other conventional transport options, there would be significant drop in air and noise pollution which are outcomes of burgeoning population in cities such as Mumbai. The trees are not just being cut, they are all set to be transplanted or replanted as well.
Do we need just one green patch in the entire city of Mumbai or can we all join hands together and come forward for plantation? In June, the BMC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Maharashtra government for building a zoo on 100 acres of land in Aarey Milk Colony. This zoo will be an extension of the one at Byculla and will include a jungle safari and a breeding centre for endangered species.
Environmentalists and forest dwellers are calling for Aarey Colony to be officially designated as a green zone of reserve forest, completely denying the government from encroaching via construction and instead of wanting it to conserve the region. The state government, however, seems to be driving forward with its plans for the benefits of citizens in the long run. We brought you the latest updates on Aarey , if you must- do pick your side.