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The Aarey Milk Depot Conundrum: Greens Vs Greens

On one side we have a citizens who believe that pollution in Mumbai has reached devastating levels with resultant impact on the health of the common Mumbaikar; therefore we need to have a robust public transport system – Mumbai Metro – to ease off dependency on vehicular transportation. Their belief is that reduction in vehicular traffic will improve the environmental conditions in the city.

On the other side we also have citizens who believe that the felling of trees at the Aarey Milk Depot site will further deteriorate the environmental conditions in Mumbai because the city needs to retain its green cover.

To be honest. Both citizens are logical and concerned in their points of view; both love Mumbai and both are environmentally conscious.

To the people of Mumbai the toughest decision is to be able to balance the long-term environmental benefits with the short term environmental gains.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has felled 2141 trees. It was granted this permission by the Tree Authority; this permission was challenged at the Bombay High Court.

The Chief Justice in its order did not find merit in the case filed by the protestors challenging the permission to fell trees. It dismissed the petition of the petitioners and allowed for MMRCL to proceed with its scheduled works on the project.

The protestors leading one group of concerned citizens have now approached the Supreme Court. SC has ordered a status quo on the cutting off trees.

Studying the Mumbai Metro Line – 3 (MML-3) project over the last several weeks I have come to understand that MML-3 will carry 17 lakh passengers every day and thereby removing 6.5 lakh vehicle trips off the road which will run turn educe 2.61 lakh Tons CO2 pollution every year.

If the same amount of pollution is to be reduced just by planting trees, Mumbai would need more than 2 crores trees for which there is no space in the city.

Mumbai is one of the most polluted cities due to large number of vehicle population in the city.

In my understanding, the temporary strain on the environment caused by cutting of 2141 trees at Aarey Milk Colony in terms of CO2 sequestration, will be compensated just by 4 days of Metro Line 3 train operations and lifetime envisage damage will be compensated by 80 days of Metro Line 3 train operations.

The MMRCL in its communication has stated that it has adopted sustainable mitigation measures for the temporary environmental strain the project might cause. It has planted 14,346 trees with 6”x 12” girth and 12 -15 feet height of native variety and also planted 9,500 trees as per the Forest Department norms under CSR.

A total 23,846 trees have been planted at different locations including the degraded areas of Borivali National Park. The trees are of good quality of plant of native variety like Sita Ashok, Kadamb, Arjun and Kanchan.

Reportedly 13,000 additional trees are also expected to be planted by MMRCL. They are currently in discussion with the Maharashtra government to find suitable land to plant more trees.

Every day at least 10 people die on suburban rail tracks either because of trespassing or by falling out of crowded trains. The similar amount of people gets injured and disabled. Losing 3500 – 4000 lives every year for past many years has been a matter of great concern for the financial capital of India.

Many families have been devastated by such untimely death of their earning family members. This situation can be addressed and precious lives could be saved only if there is a substantial capacity expansion of rail based public transport in the form of Metro.

The entire Metro network, I understand has the capacity to carry more than 1 crore passengers by 2041. This would lead to safe commute on suburban trains also.

The Metro Line-3 will be the most important and efficient corridor of the entire Mumbai Metro network which would have a huge potential to save lives of Mumbaikars by providing a safer, comfortable and reliable transport.

Tree cutting may cause temporary strain to the environment but the benefits of Metro-3 in terms of reduction in pollution, reduction in traffic congestion and saving of lives substantially outweigh this environmental strain.

As a former resident of Mumbai and someone who travels to Mumbai quite often on work, I am clear that Mumbai needs a robust transport system such as a Metro.

I am emotional about the issue, every Mumbaikar would be.But being emotional cannot make us blind to the truth about the dual need of the MML-3 – one to save the environment and one to save lives.

Shifting the Metro Aarey Depot is not only illogical at this point of time but also financially not viable and will not meet the deadline of commencement of rail operations.

The fact that this project is registered with the United Nations Framework for Climate Change under Clean Development Mechanism gives me confidence that MML-3 project will walk the path of environmental sensitivities and sustainable development.

I appeal to all Mumbaikars! Let’s come together to make Mumbai greener with a robust and ecological sound transport system project.

Savio Rodrigues, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, and

A social activist with a strong belief that progress of a city needs to be balanced with an eye on the environment and sustainable development.

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