Date:  June 9, 2017

Save 5000 Trees
Citizen Concerns and Suggestions
  Mumbai Metro 3

  1. Our concerns are set out in four parts in this document and preceded by a section on our prayers to the authorities.

  2. After the Supreme Court did not extend the stay on felling nearly 5,000 trees for Metro 3, on May 18, 2017, and referred the matter to a two judge committee, the Mumbai Metro MMRCL, its contractors and affiliates have hacked down hundreds of trees indiscriminately across the city. The Courts had earlier imposed a stay on felling trees from February 9 to May 18, 2017. The pictures below are from the felling at one of the 27 proposed stations:

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  3.  This is needless felling of large and magnificent trees across Mumbai for the Metro 3 project.

  4.  At the outset we clarify that we are not opposed to the Metro itself but to the felling of trees for the Metro can be built without felling them.

  5.  A summary of our concerns is as follows:

    1. Design and Decision Changes to Save Trees:  We believe thousands of trees planned for felling can be saved if MMRCL makes a few design changes and revisits some decisions that it has made in the conceptualisation of the Metro. We have detailed these suggestions below. We have run these suggestions by experts in Metro engineering, including IIT faculty members and managing directors of Metro engineering corporates, and without wanting to come on record officially they have supported these suggestions, and said that there is merit in exploring them to save trees.

    2.   Deficient Tree Cutting Permission:  The tree felling permission from the tree authority, on the basis of which MMRCL, its contractors and affiliates are felling trees, is premature and deficient. Even if the Supreme Court did not extend the stay on felling trees, the underlying permission being deficient, the felling needs to stop immediately. The primary concern is that in keeping with the spirit of the Tree Act whose title itself contains the words ‘Protection and Preservation of Trees’ and which mandates that the Tree Officer must hold an enquiry to satisfy himself of the unavoidable need to fell a tree prior to granting permission, there has been scarce application of mind. Details are provided below.

    3.   No Government Custodian for 5,000 Trees:  We also wish to raise the larger question that when 5,000 trees are to be felled at one location, for a project, which department or authority from the Government's side acts as a custodian of the trees? In the present matter the three authorities, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOEF&CC), the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and the Tree Authority have all not discharged their role as a custodian of trees. There is hence a need to go to the MOEF&CC and request for a more sincere execution of its statutory role.

    4.   Complaints at Police Station Unheeded:   The resident complaints at the Marine Drive Police Station, for one of the 27 stations, ie Churchgate, about the project not having received all permissions such as the CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) and PCB (Pollution Control Board) it has not been acted on

    5.   Cuffe Parade Terminal at Incorrect Location:   Work has begun work and felled trees in a location at Cuffe Parade which is different from the one depicted on the map while they sought SEIAA approval. SEIAA in its purported CRZ clearance has permitted the station to be built at a different spot in Cuffe Parade. By building the station in the wrong location, the Metro has not only destroyed a childrens’ playground but are also engaged in felling hundreds of trees without permission, at the wrong location.


  6.   Our plea to the authorities is as follows:  

    1.  Please pass an order to stay any further felling or pruning of trees for Metro 3.

    2.  Please ask the Metro authorities to explain if the design and decision changes requested in the first section of our document can be implemented. If thousands of trees can be so saved, then despite a few project setbacks, such as a delay of a few months, the survival of such a large number of trees in a city starved of trees will be a greater benefit. Please pass suitable orders for the Metro authorities to incorporate such suggestions into their plans.

    3.  Please direct the Metro authorities to obtain environmental clearance from the MOEF&CC for the Metro 3 project under the EIA Notification of 2006.

    4.  Please direct the Metro authorities to obtain environmental clearance from SEIAA.

    5.  Please quash the existing permission for cutting trees issued by the Tree Authority as it is premature and deficient. Please direct the Metro authorities to approach them for a fresh tree cutting permission for a far reduced number of trees after they incorporate the suggestions set out in this document.

    6.  Please direct the Metro authorities to stop work at the incorrect location in Cuffe Parade and to secure all clearances before starting work at an appropriate location which will minimise harm to trees.

    7.  Please take suitable action so that there is deterrence for similar negligence and offences while sanctioning tree felling in future.

  7.   Details of Concerns

    1.   Design and Decision Changes to Save Trees:

      1.  A few changes in design and decision may help save the majority of the 5,000 trees. These are listed below and are being made without prejudice to the fact that it is necessary that MMRC and BMC obtain all necessary legal permissions prior to felling any tree.

      2.  The Metro 3 alignment is planned from AareyColony in the north to Cuffe Parade in the south, about 34 kilometres and will have 27 stations shown below:

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      3.  RTI query responses from MMRCL show more than 5,000 trees to be cut and transplanted as follows:

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      4.   Suggestion 1 – Optimized station widths to save trees along road edges:

        1.  Of the 5,000 trees, nearly 2,700 are to be removed from Seepz to Cuffe Parade at locations where stations are planned, not where the tracks run underground.

        2.  The majority of the 27 stations are planned under roads where trees stand along the edge of the road. The reason trees are to be lost is that station boxes are being dug into the ground using the cut and cover method which will dig out the road from edge to edge.

        3.  Where the trees are located along the edge of the road and are to be removed for creation of a station box, a thinner foot print of the station box that spares the edges of the road will allow the trees to be saved.

        4.  MMRCL’s own plans show that the DN road station will be built in a crowded Fort market area under a road with a width of 77 feet, however, at other places like Churchgate where the road width is much wider (nearly 120 feet in parts) MMRCL's plan, still seems to want to remove trees on both edges of the road. Where a station box in a crowded market area can be made in a thin 77 foot wide section, why is this model not replicated at other stations under roads to spare trees along the edges?

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        5.  In fact the Girgaon station is built in 61 feet of road width

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        6.  Finally, a number of technical options can also be considered to reduce station box width and make them narrower. A few stills from a video of a metro line in Kuala Lumpur shows how a narrow station can be built in a crowded market area, under a threelane road. It features inbound and outbound train tunnels one under the other in place of parallel to each. The latter is what the Mumbai Metro has planned.

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      5.   Suggestion 2 –NATM stations at stations where gardens exist on top

        1.  Of the 27 stations a few are to be located in garden areas such as Cuffe Parade and Vidhan Bhavan. Where stations are to be located under gardens and the Metro 3 has required legal permissions to construct a station, the construction of a single or double storied NATM station should be explored.

        2.  The Tehran Metro video shows how vertical shafts are constructed to lower equipment down and create an NATM tunnel. This can help save much of tree cover on the garden.

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        3.  (iii) MMRCL had in its EIA 2012 and DPR planned 11 NATM stations, however that number has been now reduced for reasons they have not shared publicly. However, their website shows two potential NATM models, one of which featured below shows a single level one storied station which could be adapted to the suggestion (the image below is from MMRCLs own website).

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      6.   Suggestion 3: Shift the car shed out from a plot that requires nearly 2,300 to be felled to an open field in Kanjurmarg

        1.  For over two years now a case is being heard by the National Green Tribunal over MMRCLs proposed northern terminal and car shed site. A non-government organization (NGO) has challenged the Government about its intended change of use of a no-development and forest like land to commercial and other purposes. All the statements made in this document are without prejudice to the proceeding and outcome in that tribunal case.

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        2.  Nearly 2,300 trees are to be removed at northern terminal station where the Metro also proposes a car shed. The area is a green no-development zone, in which MMRCL seeks 33 hectares of land to accommodate a station, car-shed and other commercial establishments

        3.  In June 2015, the Chief Minister had set up a six member committee to look for an alternative feasible site for the car shed after widespread public protest against the tree felling.

        4.  All six committee members seemed to agree that Kanjurmarg was the preferred location for the car shed. The location at Kanjurmarg is a field with very few trees and has adequate land. The challenges the government would face did not seem insurmountable to the committee. Images of the current and Kanjurmarg site are below:

        5.  Though MMRCL deposed before this committee it later rejected the committee’s recommendation of Kanjurmarg.

        6.  We believe this option of Kanjurmarg must be examined further, challenges overcome and the car shed should be located here.

        7.  Alternatively the Metro line 7 which runs from Dahisar to Andheri should be explored as a logical extension to the Metro 3 line which ends in the vicinity of Andheri at SEEPZ and Aarey. It should be evaluated if Metro 3 could merge into Metro 7 and then the car shed could be brought up in a field far north of Mumbai close to Dahisar

        8.  Only recently the Chief Minister of Maharashtra met a group of citizens from this (NGO) and suggested that Kalinamay be explored as an alternative too.

        9.  Further, press reports from yesterday seem to suggest that the Shiv Senais unwilling to allow the MMRCL to use the land for a car shed too as can be seen below.

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      7.   Suggestion 4 – Where vomitors, ventilators or other exits planned at stations, emerge in an area with trees, an alternative location where possible should be selected

        1.  As an example, at Churchgate one passenger entrance (vomitor) is being located in a traffic circle where a number of trees will be removed. Just a little distance from this is a parking lot bereft of trees. Relocating it to the parking lot will save several trees.

        2.  MMRCL should fine tune its plan to provide vomitors, ventilation shafts etc, in areas without trees where feasible.

      8.   Suggestion 5 – Proactively create tree beds along station locations

        1.  The Metro must invest in making and sharing layouts of proposed stations with citizens. These should include greening initiatives like tree beds where a greater number of trees can be planted than did originally exist.

        2.  Layouts such as the ones made for cutting shown below, but showing proposed station layout and locations for additional tree beds should be conveyed to residents

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        3.  We are aware that the MMRCL has submitted an affidavit to plant nearly an equal number of trees in-situ after the completion of work. But where trees are already scarce a larger number replanted in the locality which hosts a station will be preferred.

      9.  By exploring such solution themes it is possible that a large majority of the 5,000 trees may be saved.

    2.   Details of Concern – Deficient Tree Cutting Permission: 

      1.  Since May 19, 2017 hundreds of trees have been felled across Mumbai to make way for the Metro. But we believe the Tree Authority's permission to fell them is deficient. Tree felling was allowed:

        1.  Ahead of the project receiving all legal clearances. All CRZ and Pollution Control Board permissions have still not been granted to the Metro

        2.  Without checking if the Metro alignment is final. The location of the terminal station and car shed, have been in dispute before the NGT for two years and if its location will change so will the alignment. As seen above CM recently asked a citizen group to explore Kalinaas an alternative location with MMRCL and the Shiv Senais reluctant to give the go ahead to a Metro car shed in a no development zone.

        3.  Before checking that the title of the land vests clearly with the owner who seeks to fell a tree. The Metro Act stipulates the land must be under the central government which it is not. Section 10 of the Act is set out below

          1.  10. Declaration of acquisition

          2.  (1) Where no objection under sub-section (1) of section 9 has been made to the competent authority within the period specified therein or where the competent authority has disallowed the objection under sub-section (2) of that section, the competent authority shall, as soon as may be, submit a report accordingly to the Central Government and on receipt of such report, the Central Government shall declare, by notification in the Official Gazette, that the land, building, street, road or passage, or the right of user, or the right in the nature of easement, therein for laying the metro railway should be acquired.

          3.  (2) On the publication of the declaration under sub-section (1), the land, building, street, road or passage, or the right of user, or the right in the nature of easement, therein shall vest absolutely in the Central Government free from all encumbrances.

        4.  Despite the matter being in litigation. Citizens had approached court in October 2016 and the permission was granted later in January 2017. This is in addition to the dispute at the NGT.

        5.  Even though objections were received from citizens in writing and these were not disclosed to the court, subsequently.

        6.  Despite noting instances of gross negligence in the procedure carried out for granting approval such as 20 feet wide trees being shown as 2 feet wide and being permitted for felling

      2.  The Tree Act defines the very first duty of the Tree Authority as the protection and preservation of trees. Section 7 on duties is illustrated below:

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      3.  The Tree Act also specifies that in granting permission to fell any tree the applicant must furnish reasons and the tree officer must inspect the tree, hold an enquiry, invite objections from the public and submit a report to the Tree Authority before granting approval. It is apparent that there needs to be an application of mind by the officer and the authority that the felling is unavoidable before permission is granted. Section 8(2) and 8(3) are illustrated below

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      4.  The suggestions in the preceding section ‘8A’, subsections ‘d’ to ‘h’, are examples of the kind of scrutiny a proposal to fell 5,000 trees should have received from a real custodian of trees acting in the true spirit of protecting and preserving trees.

      5.  The Supreme Court may have vacated the stay on felling trees, but their order does not intend to make an inherently deficient permission good in law. So the Metro authorities must desist from felling any further trees immediately.

    3.   No Government Custodian for 5,000 Trees:  

      1.  There are three authorities that should have acted as a custodian for trees in Mumbai:

        1.  The MCGM’s Tree Authority (‘Tree Authority’)

        2.  The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (‘MOEF&CC’)

        3.  The State Coastal Zone Authority ie the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (‘SEIAA’)

      2.  To an infrastructure project like the Metro, it is essential that one of these authorities should have posed questions (and suggestions) similar to those we have set out in section ‘8A’, subsections ‘d’ to ‘h’, above. We find none of these authorities has done so.

        1.  As far as the first Authority, ie the Tree Authority is concerned the preceding section 8(B) deals with how the Tree Authority’s permission was granted without due diligence

        2.  The Ministry of Environment at Delhi in a letter dated November 2016 advised the MMRCL that a Metro Project does not require prior environmental clearance under the EIA Notification of 2006.

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        3.  However, since the EIA Notification 2006 specifically covers any construction work involving a built up area in excess of 150,000 square metres. It also states for any such project that comes within 10 kilometres of a national park the MOEF&CC will require an environmental clearance. The Metro 3 line includes train tracks and stations which together will have a built up area far in excess of the threshold. It is therefore incorrect for the Ministry of Environment to exempt the Metro from such prior clearance.

        4.  Seen below is the extract from EIA Notification 2006 that shows projects falling in category A (construction > 150,000 sqm and within 10 km of a national park) require central MOEF clearance

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        5.  Further in a subsequent matter related to the Nodia Metro the National Green Tribunal has in a well-reasoned order said that a Metro requires such clearance.

        6.  This order of the NGT for the Nodia Metro was subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court without stating a reason. Since no reason has been stated by the Supreme Court the rationale of the NGT should prevail until a further clarification is provided. It is also important to note some differences in the Noida Metro matter and Mumbai Metro

          1.  The petitioner had approached the NGT a year after the Noida Metro work had started. At Mumbai citizens have approached the High Court before the work has started and the tree felling had just commenced in February 2017

          2.  In the Noida metro case fewer trees were impacted than in Mumbai. The count was nearly a third of the Mumbai count.

        7.  Below is a news report from Hindustan Times showing that even the Noida Metro has sought to comply with the EIA conditions voluntarily in the light of the NGT order and the SC stay

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        8.  Hence we believe the MOEF&CC has also not discharged its role as a custodian of trees. Indeed it has incorrectly certified that a Metro project that fells more than 5,000 trees does not need an environmental clearance

        9.  The same MOEF&CC letter however states that Coastal Regulation Zone permissions will be required as well as those under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

        10.  9 out of 27 stations fall into CRZ area. These require SEIAA or planning authority approval

        11.  The SEIAA has granted permission for only a few of the nine stations covered under CRZ-Zone 1, CRZ-Zone 2 and CRZ-Zone. A number of the permissions came after citizens approached the court in February 2017. But even these permissions specifically state they are not an environmental clearance and in the section pertaining to the impact on trees the permission seems to just fill in a ‘Not Applicable’.

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        12.  Hence all three authorities have not been sincere custodians of environment and trees. Where 5,000 trees are concerned this is a gross injustice to our countrymen, citizens and to the voiceless, disenfranchised community of living beings, the trees. It is imperative that the impermissible and avoidable cutting be halted immediately.

        13.  Further, MMRCL had conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment on its own in 2012 and has used this as a basis for securing nearly 60% of the project cost of Rs 24,000 crores as a loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). That environmental impact assessment states a dramatically lower loss of trees than what is now the case. It stated 1,745 trees will be cut or transplanted. This number is nearly 300% higher now at 5,012.

          1.  For example, at Churchgate the 2012 EIA states only 6 trees at Churchgate will be impacted where as close to 98 trees are now being felled or transplanted.

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          2.  Mumbai Mirror press report from Jun 6, 2017 states as much, “With a proposed Metro car shed at Aarey Colony railroading concerns that it will shatter the green sanctuary’s ecological balance, environmentalists under the save Aareybanner have told the rail’s Japanese sponsor that it has deliberately not been apprised of the full extent of the construction’s impact by the project executor”.

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          3.  Correspondence received from JICA in February, 2017 shows that the project manager still refers to the old EIA published in 2012.

        14.  For a large infrastructure project such as Metro 3, with a budget outlay of nearly 24,000 crores, the cost to transplant a tree is negligible, at only Rs 8,000 per tree, even where the transplantation is a failure. Hence even to transplant 3,000 trees the project will spend about Rs 2.4 crores or 0.01% of the total cost. Such a small sum will be of least concern to the planners. Had a more stringent liability been envisaged in the Tree Act the attention to finding a more tree friendly solution for infrastructure projects would be greater, we note with some regret.

        15.  It is also pertinent to note that for a similar project Metro Line 2, MMRCL was reprimanded by the Comptroller and Auditor General in their audit report (Government of Maharashtra, Report 3 for 2016) for incurring infructuous expenditure on a project that was a non-starter since it had not received environmental clearances and had to ultimately be abandoned:

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    4.   Complaints at Police Station Unheeded:  

      1.  On May 25, 2017 citizens had lodged a police complaint at the Marine Drive Police Station against MMRCL, its contractors and affiliates that rampant tree cutting was taking place on the J Tata Road, Churchgatedespite missing CRZ and PCB permissions

      2.  There has been no communication from the Metro officials regarding our complaint and the work of felling trees has continued unabated.

  8.   Cuffe Parade Terminal at Incorrect Location:   The SEIAA’s purported CRZ clearance, but not environmental clearance, was given for a stretch of land to the east and parallel to the location where the Metro has commenced work and decided to build a station. The consequence is hundreds of trees which would not have been lost otherwise will be lost. These details have been provided in the writ petitions filed in the matter.

  9.  In light of the concerns listed in section 8, we have set out our plea in section 7 above and it is reiterated below for reading convenience.

    1.  Please pass an order to stay any further felling or pruning of trees for Metro 3.

    2.  Please ask MMRCL to explain if the design and decision changes requested in the first section of our document can be implemented. If thousands of trees can be so saved, then despite a few project setbacks, such as a delay of a few months, the survival of such a large number of trees in a city starved of trees will be a greater benefit. Please pass suitable orders for MMRCL to incorporate such suggestions into their plans.

    3.  Please direct MMRCL to obtain environmental clearance from the MOEF&CC for the Metro 3 project under the EIA Notification of 2006.

    4.  Please direct MMRCL to obtain environmental clearance from SEIAA.

    5.  Please quash the existing permission for cutting trees issued by the Tree Authority as it is premature and deficient. Please direct MMRCL to approach them for a fresh tree cutting permission for a far reduced number of trees after they incorporate the suggestions set out in this document.

    6.  Please direct MMRCL to stop work at the incorrect location in Cuffe Parade and to secure all clearances before starting work at an appropriate location which will minimise harm to trees.

    7.  Please take suitable action so that there is deterrence for similar negligence and offences while sanctioning tree felling in future.

  10.   The Paris Agreement of 2015, recognises “that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet” and emphasises the necessity of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels.” The World Meteorological Organization warns that “The year 2016 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record.”

    India and our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, support the accord. Bereft of trees, concrete in cities contributes to the urban heat island phenomenon. It is these trees and forests that will sequester the carbon and heat. Where the Metro can be made without felling these trees it will be in our long term to try to save as many as possible.