Mumbai: To prevent the rampant felling of trees at Aarey and celebrate an eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi, environmentalists, naturalists and tree lovers have been painting Ganesha on the trunks of trees in Aarey Milk Colony.

Construction for the underground Metro 3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) project is under way at Aarey and set to gnaw at 33 hectares of the city’s last surviving green lung. The activists alleged the contractors attempted to erase the paintings. Amrita Bhattacharya, a member of the Aarey Conservation Group (ACG), said the motive was to raise public awareness of the tremendous loss of tree cover under the pretext of progress. While Ganesha helped save trees from the axe, the ‘Save Aarey’ message was obliterated, she said.

“Along with the painting of Ganpati, the message ‘Save Aarey’ was painted on the trees, but it was later erased. Officials were even stopping us from painting on trees that were outside the fencing of the car shed area.” Activists claimed to have painted six trees that are on the opposite of the car shed.

The move has, however, had no impact on the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) officials either, alleged activists. “The construction hasn’t stopped after we drew Ganesha on trees. They keep continuing, without any fear of backlash. However, they cannot cut those trees since they have not received permission from the Tree Authority, at least as yet,” said Yash Marwah, another ACG member.

Meanwhile, around six complaints against the metro work were lodged last week. Activists complained that the National Green Tribunal’s status quo order with respect to Aarey Colony had been violated by carrying out work. Environmentalists and concerned Mumbaikars have been fighting for years to save the 33 hectares of the green lung which the Maharashtra Government has de-notified as an eco-sensitive zone for the construction of a car shed in Aarey.