Write to Save Aarey

I refer to your Public Notice inviting objections to cut/remove around 2702 trees at Aarey Forest for Mumbai Metro 3 car shed related work.

As a citizen of India and resident of Mumbai, we strongly object – AGAIN - to any proposal to cut/remove trees in Aarey forest, Mumbai and urge you to deny any such permission. Proposals to chop down trees at Aarey have been put up repeatedly and every time citizens have objected. Last year, this same proposal received more than 60,000 objections and an angry citizenry turned up to protest at the public hearing as well.

Aarey is the last remaining green lungs of the city. It is not only the green lungs, but also the green sponge of Mumbai. There are over 77 species of birds, a total of 34 species of wildflowers, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 46 species of reptiles, several of these being listed under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, and 16 species of mammals, including the elusive and magnificent leopard, which is infact listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, have been documented in Aarey.

The Mumbai Metro 3 Car shed that is currently being constructed within Aarey (on the beds of the Mithi River) is a category 3 polluting industry. It is being built here despite the availability of alternate locations (Kanjurmarg, Mumbai University, Dharavi, Bombay Port Trust, SEEPZ, BackBay, Mahalaxmi Race Course) and the recommendations of the government’s own expert committee. Repeated objections and appeals from citizens groups from across the city seem to be falling on deaf ears.

A good tree cover doesn’t just give us oxygen and filter the air we breathe, it also regulates our climate, drainage, and water table. According to international benchmarks, there must be approximately 7 trees per person. But in Mumbai, we are averaging less than 1 tree per person.

In 2018 alone, proposals to remove more than 8000 trees have been put up. This year, tree removal notices are averaging around 6000 grown, mature trees. As for transplantation, records have shown that more than 55 percent of the transplanted trees do not survive. Also, a good tree cover is required to be spread all across the city. So there is little sense in removing trees from one area and transplanting them elsewhere.

If the BMC continues to allow each and every proposal of tree felling that government bodies put across, will there remain any tree cover in this city at all? Please tell us, come 2020, will there be a single tree left in Mumbai? As residents of this city, we feel compelled to express just how worried we are at the state of the rising toxicity of the air that we are breathing.

A good tree cover is required not just to purify the air but also to ensure the water tables are restored. However, due to haphazard policies, this year itself, there has been news about city after city running out of water. Maharashtra itself has been draught hit since several years now. In such a scenario, It is sheer madness on your part to allow further felling even of a single tree. We are sorry to say this; but the utter and complete disregard of what is happening to our environment on your part is shocking and simply outrageous.

It is a matter of inconceivable oversight that MMRCL has not taken into consideration the factors pertaining to environmental degradation while planning its metro project. We would like to take this opportunity to point out yet again that it is both illegal and unconstitutional for public sector undertakings like MMRDA, MMRCL or BMC to promote environmental destruction.

The whole world is waking up to the climate crisis. Sixteen year old kids are being forced to take to the streets to protect their future. They are fighting a battle that their elders should be fighting. It is shameful, to say the least, that our children are having to bear the burden of responsibility of protecting this planet all by themselves. And so, it is becoming crucially important that government bodies start demonstrating a sincere will to tackle the alarming rate of environmental degradation immediately and urgently draw up comprehensive policies to address it. Putting an immediate ban on all tree felling activity in the city of Mumbai, not just at Aarey, will go a long way in assuring residents of this city BMC’s willingness to seriously listen to citizens’ concerns regarding their degrading environment.

Please acknowledge receipt of this objection.

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