Mumbai,(The Hindu): In a rare case, the civic Tree Authority will directly hear citizens’ objections to the removal of 2,700 trees in Aarey Colony.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had organised a public hearing on the matter, but the Bombay High Court recently directed that the authority should grant a hearing to objectors. The BMC now has to place all 40,000 objections before the authority and organise the hearing.
Officials said that usually, the BMC holds a public hearing and the citizens’ objections are then placed before the Tree Authority.
After the National Green Tribunal provided no relief to those opposing tree felling to accommodate a Metro car shed in Aarey Colony, the BMC issued a public notice on September 26 for the removal of 2,702 trees from the site. This includes cutting 2,238 trees and transplanting 464. Until October 10, the BMC received nearly 40,000 suggestions and objections to the proposal. To hear these, it organised a public hearing in its Byculla Zoo office, but the event was marked by chaos.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Sharma Menon, who had filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court regarding the felling of trees in Aarey, told the court that the BMC did not expect such a large number of people to turn up for the hearing. The BMC’s counsel, while saying that a three-hour hearing was conducted, admitted that the corporation did not expect the large numbers. The court, on October 11, disposed of the writ petition and directed the BMC to ensure that “the Tree Authority shall provide proper hearing to the objectors”.
A senior officer from the BMC Gardens Department said, “As per the HC’s directions, the Tree Authority will hear objectors directly. We will organise a hearing.”
But activist Zoru Bhathena said this is not the correct interpretation of the order. “A hearing is always conducted by the Tree Officer on behalf of Tree Authority. It never holds a hearing itself,” Mr. Bhathena said.
The HC has also directed BMC that the Tree Authority shall post all orders passed by the BMC on its website at the earliest. Only orders http://canaranews.com/uploaded to the website will be considered valid.
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