MUMBAI: Protests against the cutting of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey intensified on Saturday, with the police rounding up 29 activists from the scene of a demonstration. Residents and activists have been up in arms against the plan to cut trees to free up space for a Metro shed in the area. Police enforced prohibitory orders under Section 144 on Saturday, as workers deployed by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) continued chopping trees in the area.
The batch of petitions, demanding quashing of permission from the Tree Authority of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to cut 2,643 trees at the MMRCL site in Aarey and declaring it as forest land, was dismissed by the Bombay High Court on Friday, paving the way for the tree cutting exercise.
Within hours of the court verdict, MMRCL authorities deputed its workforce to bring down trees. Images and videos of chopped trees in the site earmarked for Mumbai Metro 3 depot went viral on the social media. Word of the tree cutting exercise spread like wildfire, as environment activists, in their hundreds, massed at the scene and erupted in protest.
Police said a scuffle ensued between the protesters and the MMRCL workers, forcing them to intervene.“A group of protesters, numbering around 200, gathered at the spot and tried to obstruct government servants from carrying out their duty. A constable was injured after being hit by someone in the crowd. A complaint was lodged by his colleague Anita Sutar after which 29 activists (23 men and 6 women) were rounded up,” Pranaya Ashok, DCP (Operations), said.
The arrested activists have been charged under relevant IPC sections. The activists claimed that the chopping trees was illegal. “The courts are shut for the weekend and then for Dussehra. We need time to challenge this in court, which we will not have and by the time courts reopen, the forest will be gone” read a statement released by the activists. However, MMRCL Managing Director Ashwini Bhide, dismissed the charges as false propaganda.