Mumbai’s Aarey colony has become a battleground for environmental activists and the state as it attempts to fell down 2,700 trees in preparation for the construction of a car shed for the next phase of expansion of the Mumbai metro.
However, as Maharashtra readies for the upcoming Assembly elections scheduled to be held on 21 October, the matter has also taken a political hue.e
As tensions escalated on Friday following the Mumbai High Court’s order to go ahead with the proposed felling, the Congress and Shiv Sena leaders were detained by the police for their opposition to the move.
Here’s a lowdown of Aarey protests so far:
Mumbai’s Aarey colony measures close to 1,287 hectares and is located near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. For its green cover, the colony is regarded as the lungs of the sprawling metropolis. The colony is inhabited by indigenous people and is also home to many species of animals and plants.
However, a major chunk of the colony fell in the location for a car shed earmarked by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) in one of its latest expansion plans and thus began the legal fight and protests by activists and residents that on Saturday led to the arrest of 29 people opposed to the felling of the trees.
Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, granted the MMRC permission to fell 2,700 trees for the construction of the car shed, which prompted Vanashakti — a city-based non-governmental organisation — to file a petition in the Mumbai High Court, contending that the earmarked area came under the purview of the Indian Forest Act of 1927 and thus protected against the BMC’s order.
However, the state government, BMC, and the MMRC argued that another bench of the high court had in October last year ruled on the matter and an appeal was pending with the Supreme Court therefore the new bench of the HC had no say on the matter.
Nevertheless, activists and residents of the colony were up in arms against the proposed move to cut down the trees and demanded for the car shed to be built elsewhere.
But their efforts came to nought when the Mumbai High Court on Friday dismissed all petitions against the proposed tree felling.
Following the high court order, activists and protesters started gathering at the sight opposing the tree-cutting move. The Mumbai Police, in anticipation of a fracas, imposed Section 144 of CrPC on Saturday.After Section 144 came into force
29 people were arrested on Friday night under various sections of the Indian penal code for disturbing public order and obstructing government officials from performing their duties. On Saturday, a local court sent all 29 arrested to five days of judicial custody while 55 more people were put under detention.