Political blame game starts over BMC order of cutting Aarey trees

Mumbai | The Tree Authority which comes under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cleared the proposal for felling of over 2,702 trees in Aarey Forest for the much-contested Metro car shed project.

An expert committee panel that was appointed by the High Court also criticized the BMC alleging that they were pressured to vote in favour felling so many trees.

Conservationists have argued that Aarey is a forest that has wildlife including leopards and needs to be protected to ensure Mumbai has clean air and the ecological balance is maintained.

Also Read: ‘Save Mumbai’s lungs’: Mumbaikars protest against cutting of 2,700 trees in Aarey

As is the case with authorities in Mumbai, political parties have started blaming each other for the vote.

Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray blamed Congress for walking out of such an important meeting.

He has spoken out for not cutting trees said he hopes Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will not fall for misleading reports and will continue to champion the cause of climate change.

“I still have hope that the CM will do away with the misleading reports on Aarey that say there’s no wildlife there, go with the sentiment of Mumbaikars and environment. We are championing the cause of climate change globally and we must save whatever we can, where we have an option.”

“Or maybe, deforestation is correct, even when there’s an option. What use are trees anyway? And of course, when the metro needs more money later, we have Aarey to commercially exploit, who needs oxygen? Even the court-appointed experts feel the same!” Mr Thackeray added in another tweet.

At the meeting, Sena’s six members opposed it, but the two Congress members walked out, leading to the BJP, NCP and experts allowing the proposal to be passed.

When asked, Congress members told the media that they “were not aware of such a vote taking place”.

“We were never informed that there was going to be a vote on Thursday. We opposed the proposal but when the chairman did not let us talk, we walked out. The proposal was passed 45 minutes after that. Being the larger party, shouldn’t the Sena have reached out to us? They did not want to”, the party member said.

Meanwhile, the World Wide Fund for Nature in India (WWF-India) has released a statement on its website opposing removal of trees in Aarey.

“There are media reports suggesting that Shashirekha Sureshkumar, an expert nominated by WWF-India to the Tree Authority, has agreed to the cutting of trees for the Metro car shed,” the statement said.

Ravi Raja, leader of Opposition in Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, blamed the saffron party saying, “Shiv Sena enjoys majority in panel and also in the power. We were expecting that they will fight tooth and nail like we did and will endorse our voice. But they stayed silent. It’s not about blaming one another, but the reality is the ruling party has misled everyone.”

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