Mumbai: "We do not want the next generation to see trees only in photographs and paintings on the Metro III compartments," remarked the Bombay High Court on Tuesday, referring to the pace at which the authorities are seeking permission to cut down trees. The HC also said it wanted to end the 'environment versus development' debate and held that both should co-exist.
A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre said, “The pace at which you (authorities) are seeking to cut trees, we fear that the next generation won’t get to see them. We do not want the next generation to see trees only in photographs or paintings on Metro III compartments.”
“The basic problem, according to us, is the so-called battle between environment and development. We want to remove this 'versus' thing and put both environment and development alongside,” CJ Nandrajog observed, while reserving his judgment on the petitions challenging the permission given to cut down over 2,600 trees at Aarey Colony.
The civic body’s Tree Authority (TA) has given permission for the construction of a carshed for the controversial Metro III line that will connect Colaba and SEEPZ via Bandra.
The bench made these observations after hearing the submissions of senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, who appeared for environmentalist Zoru Bhathena.
In his submissions, Dwarkadas told the judges that the ‘promise’ of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to plant at least six trees for every one chopped at Aarey is nothing but a farce.
“When they chopped down over 3,000 trees across the city for all its stations, they promised to plant three trees for every one chopped. But the survival rate of these trees has been poor and the MMRCL has failed miserably to take care of them,” Dwarkadas submitted.
“Now they promise to plan six trees for each tree that is cut. Point is, when the new trees are going to die or even the transplanted ones are going to die, then better kill them at Aarey itself, why spend so much on transplantation? They are simply going to change the location of the halal (butcher),” Dwarkadas told the judges.
Meanwhile, senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, defended the TA decision. He said, “The authority applied its mind before taking the decision and it was done via voting. There was no haste in taking the decision, as alleged by the activists.”
Chinoy further said, “The allegation that there were multiple discrepancies and the objections of the expert members was not considered is unfounded. We dealt with the objections of the expert members and then gave our final decision.”
At this, CJ Nandrajog said, “The law requires you (TA) to pass a structured and a reasoned order. If you look at your own order copy, it lacks reasons.”
The Chief Justice further pointed out that on the issue of the 623 'Subabul' trees, which the activists had initially recommended be saved and transplanted, the BMC and the MMRCL claimed it would not be environment-friendly and rejected the suggestion.
“When you say that these trees are not environment-friendly and are exotic, you mean that these trees won’t allow any other trees, shrubs, grass or even insects to grow around them. You could have mentioned this aspect in your order and we think then there would have been no litigation over it,” CJ Nandrajog remarked.
During the course of the hearing of another plea filed by Shiv Sena corporator Yeshwant Jadhav, the bench noted that he had filed two affidavits, both signed by two Congress corporators, in his support. Both the affidavits specifically stated that the entire process of the TA decision was ‘farcical.’
However, the bench noted that both the Congress corporators had walked out of the meeting prior to the voting. “This is cheating and a false affidavit has been filed. We think this is an attempt to mislead the court. We can think of holding you (guilty of) for perjury,” CJ Nandrajog said.