The Supreme Court order restraining the Maharashtra government from felling over 2000 trees in Mumbai’s Aarey area to build a shed for metro train wagons is apt considering that the issue deserved to be examined threadbare for reasons of not damaging the ecology. However, the irony is that little purpose would be served now because the State says it has already cut what was needed. If action was to be taken it was warranted before the trees were chopped off. Greater alacrity needed to be displayed by the activists who opposed the tree-felling and the court itself which could have stopped the act until the merit of the government’s action was duly examined. The matter will now be heard by a special bench of the court on October 21 in detail to ascertain if the area in question falls in an eco-sensitive zone. But in the context of the fact that the tree-felling is already complete, the whole thing looks farcical. At best, the court can hasten the process of greater afforestation to compensate many times over for the trees chopped off.
Evidently, the whole issue had a political motivation for it and was orchestrated by the desire to show the Fadnavis government in bad light at a time when Assembly elections are round the corner. The Shiv Sena, which ranted about the need to stop the project in strong terms sought to score brownie points while continuing to be in alignment with the BJP for the elections. It was hypocrisy all the way with a keenness to upstage the BJP on what became an emotive issue. If the Shiv Sena was really so concerned about tree-felling, it should have forced the Fadnavis government to relent or walked out of its alliance with BJP if it did not comply. Instead, it created a big din but stuck to the chair. It is to be hoped that the apex court would take a clear stand on whether the other locations for locating the shed for metro train wagons were ecologically better suited. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s stand that only two per cent of the Aarey forest land was affected and that the plantation of saplings was far in excess of the trees chopped off needs to be tested for its sincerity and credibility. The court must now set guidelines for future tree-felling.