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Metro: Give fair hearing to people objecting tree cutting, HC tells BMC

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The Bombay High Court directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Thursday to grant a fair hearing to the city residents who are objecting to the proposal to cut trees for the metro car-shed project.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice G S Kulkarni also directed the BMC’s tree authority to publish on its website details of the permission granted for cutting trees for the car shed and the map coordinates of such trees.

The directions came while the bench was disposing of a writ petition objecting to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s (MMRC) proposal to cut 2,700 trees to clear a 33-hectare plot at the Aarey Milk Colony here to make way for the proposed car shed for the Mumbai Metro-3 project.

The BMC objected to the plea, arguing it was premature since its tree authority was yet to grant final permission for cutting trees for the car shed.

The civic body said it had already invited objections from the public and was in the process of granting a hearing to such objections.

As per the plea, filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Preeti Menon, the BMC’s tree authority had failed to provide a fair hearing to members of the public who had raised an objection to the proposed felling of trees.

As per the petitioner, in the first such hearing on Wednesday, while the BMC received over 40,000 written objections and around 200 residents turned up for the public hearing, the civic body and MMRC officials left midway through the hearing, without resolving each person’s issues.

The BMC, however, told the bench that it had every intention of hearing out each objection.

“We hadn’t anticipated that such a large number of people will turn up at the hearing. We had pre-scheduled the hearing for a short period and that is why the officers had to leave early. However, we will hold another public hearing soon and also respond to the written objections,” BMC’s counsel Narayan Bubna said.

As per MMRC’s own admission before the bench, out of the 2,700 trees to be felled, around 450 will be transplanted and restored elsewhere.

It will carry out compensatory re-plantation at an alternate plot in lieu of the remaining trees that will be cut and destroyed.

It also said that as seen in the past, only about 60 per cent of the transplanted trees survive at the new spot.

Following the submission, the bench asked the MMRC what was the point in cutting trees in one area and transplanting them, or carrying out compensatory re-plantation at an alternate far away spot and probably, an already green area.

“Is there some sort of balancing mechanism you have? Because, you are cutting thousands of trees from residential or commercial areas, but you are planting compensatory saplings in a far away area. So, what about the environmental concerns in the area where trees were cut in the first place?” the bench asked.

“Give these people a fair hearing and publish all details on your website,” the court told the BMC.

The MMRC submitted that while it would be ideal to carry out compensatory re-plantation in an area adjoining to the place where trees are cut, it is not often possible due to lack of adequate space.

It further said that it always follows the BMC and the state’s rules while cutting trees and carrying out compensatory plantation.

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