Citizens have given their verdict. Save the 2,700-plus Aarey Milk Colony trees that are proposed to be cut for a Metro car shed. The Brihanmumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has received 82,000 objections to the proposed project of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC).
On 8 July, the BMC held a public hearing at an auditorium in the Bandra-Kurla Complex regarding the felling of the trees. This was in keeping with the Maharashtra (Urban Area) Protection and Preservation of Tree Act, 1975, under which the civic body allows citizens to raise objections to tree felling. This was the second hearing.
The public hearing was attended by 500 citizens, including members of groups such as Save Aarey and Aarey Conservation, as well as lawyers. Among them was Amrita Bhattacharya, one of the first activists to join the movement to save Aarey Colony in 2015. “This forest is critical to Mumbai, especially if you consider how the city floods during the monsoons. We have to ensure this green space is protected," she says.
Bhattacharya adds, “This movement—in the real sense—is by citizens. Rarely do we see citizens sustaining a movement like this for so long in Mumbai." Aarey Colony is home to 27 tribal hamlets as well as urban apartments. The lush locality, spanning 1,280 hectares, is an extension of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and attracts trekkers, fitness enthusiasts, cyclists, wildlife experts, photographers and picnickers. The area is especially lovely during the monsoon.
Bhattacharya says there is no need for more public hearings and believes the MMRC should aim for alternative, less ecologically sensitive spaces for its shed. “It is a simple matter to understand, provided they want to understand."