NEW DELHI: In a major victory for green activists, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that no trees are further cut from Aarey area in Mumbai.
A special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan directed the government to maintain the status quo and said it would further hear all the petitions in the matter on October 21.
Observing that it “appeared Aarey was a forest at some point of time”, the court asked the state government to submit a status report on the number of trees felled so far and the compulsory afforestation by the Mumbai metro.
The court was hearing petitions by activists who are protesting against the felling of over 2,600 trees in Aarey colony for the construction of a Mumbai Metro car shed.
Thousands of trees have been razed in Aarey under heavy security since Friday night to clear the land for construction of a metro car shed and offices for Mumbai Metro Line 3.
During the course of hearing, Justice Arun Mishra asked whether or not the Aarey Colony was the eco-sensitive zone. To which, advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan, who represents the petitioners said, "Wider issues relating to Aarey being a forest or not has been pending before the Supreme Court in a 2018 matter."
He also apprised the court that a matter is also pending in National Green Tribunal as to whether Aarey is an eco-sensitive zone or not. "As the matter is pending the authorities should have not gone ahead with the felling of trees," Sankaranarayan submitted.
As many as 29 people were arrested and many others have been reportedly detained for trying to prevent the trees from being cut since Friday, when the Bombay High Court declared that the area was not a forest. The activists say cutting trees at Aarey Colony is illegal.
Aarey colony, one of Mumbai's greenest neighbourhoods, is home to five lakh trees and 27 tribal villages. On Friday, the Bombay High Court cancelled four petitions seeking to stop the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) from cutting down nearly 3,000 trees in the colony.
-The issue has sparked twitter campaigns and online 'petitions' such as #ArreyChipko #SaveAarey. Several Bollywood stars have also echoed concerns about the loss of green cover and urged people to come together and save the planet (with inputs from agencies)
Image Credit: Live Law