Metro body challenges green tribunal over Aarey Colony depot
MUMBAI: The battle over Aarey Colony land to build a metro depot is set to take an ugly turn.
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has challenged the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) decision to enforce a ban on construction activities. It has argued that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction in the issue.
MMRC officials said the tribunal cannot seek any ban on construction activities as Aarey Colony has not been declared an eco-sensitive area (ESA) yet. The ministry of environment and forest (MOEF) has not made a decision on demarcation of areas between 0-4 kms from boundary of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as ESA.
NGO Vanshakti had filed petition in the NGT over the MMRC’S decision to cut 2,298 trees in the area to build the depot for the Colaba-bandraseepz Metro-3 project.
Acting on the petition, the NGT, in August passed an interim order banning construction activities in Aarey Colony. It also asked MMRC to file an intervention application if the latter believes the project is legal.
In its affidavit, the MMRC has challenged the NGT’S authority to intervene in this matter.
“We have received a letter from the Union environment ministry that states that the metro project does not need environmental clearances. In addition, the proposal to declare the ESA is still pending. Aarey Colony is not a forest. After several legal consultations, we have reached a conclusion that NGT has no jurisdiction in this case,” said a senior MMRC official, who did not wish to be named.
Another MMRC official informed that the metro depot activities will be carried out in compliance with the green standards and will not have an adverse impact on the local biodiversity, except cutting trees.
Meanwhile, MMRC officials informed that it may approach the Supreme Court in relation with NGT’S jurisdiction.
D Stalin of Vanshakti rubbished MMRC’S claims. “The officials think no law is applicable to them. However, the NGT has jurisdiction and powers to intervene whenever environmental laws are violated,” he said.