MUMBAI: Environmentalists have called for a ‘grieving meeting’ on Sunday to mourn the loss of Tata Garden in Breach Candy. Several trees in and around the garden were felled on Friday in order to make way for the BMC’s ambitious coastal road project.
Residents and activists are upset that tree cutting was resumed barely a day after the Bombay high court had vacated a stay that had restricted the BMC from felling any more trees in the area.
As many as 140 trees in the 1.1 acre garden will be chopped for a traffic intersection arm of the coastal road. The BMC started felling trees here in May, following which residents and members of an NGO, Society For Improvement Greenery and Nature (SIGNATURE), filed a PIL in the Bombay high court, seeking a stay.
The court then ordered a temporary stay on felling of trees. However, during the final hearing on June 29, the HC vacated its stay, citing rule number 7A of the PIL that states a security deposit of Rs 60 crore, which is 0.5% of the entire project cost must be paid by the petitioner. The petitioners said that it was impossible for them to deposit such a large amount in court as they are only a group of morning walkers whose intention was to save the garden.
Dr. Nilesh Baxi, one of the petitioners and founder of SIGNATURE, said the BMC started felling trees inside and outside the garden on Friday.
“Exotic trees like royal palms have been cut. The trees could have been easily transplanted elsewhere, but they have been chopped down,” Baxi told FPJ on Saturday.
He said that local residents had earlier proposed that instead of cutting the trees, the BMC could take over the Signature Garden in the adjoining plot that has only 45 trees. This, too, would have served the purpose.
“The signature garden was built by citizens. We are ready to hand it over to the BMC as we are not against the project. However, all our proposals have fallen on deaf ears,” said Baxi.
Meanwhile, environmentalists will hold a grieving meeting on Sunday. Activist Zoru Bhathena said the BMC should have considered the alternative proposed by the residents.
“In the name of development, all major green cover of the city is being lost. No one is against the project, which is why we are proposing an alternative,” Bhathena said.
Environmentalist and director of NGO Vanshakti, Stalin Dayanand, said cutting more trees will only lead to water-logging in south Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the BMC said that the garden will be extended towards the sea. “We will be creating a separate space for green cover on the reclaimed land. Also, the trees that are cut will be transplanted to an alternative plot. The alternative plot proposed by residents will not be suitable as from the proposed interchange the traffic will move towards Malabar Hill, Peddar Road and Mahalaxmi,” said a senior official associated with the project.
“Also, we chopped the trees only after the court vacated the stay. We have all the necessary permissions and are only following orders,” said the official.