After announcing the new rules of the tree policy, the state government on Monday, 14th June 2021 released the minutes of the cabinet meeting. While it is not known when the new norms will come into force, city environmentalists have appealed to state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray not to ‘wait for formalities’ and urgently intervene in the Ajni Vann case to save thousands of trees.
Once rules come into force, they are likely to make things difficult for the ambitious Inter Modal Station (IMS) project, for which around 5,000 old trees at Ajni are scheduled to be cut in the first phase. The new norms state that if more than 200 trees aged 5 years or more need to be felled, the case will be referred to Maharashtra State Tree Authority.
However, experts said the city should not lose such dense green cover just because implementing the new rules will take time. “The government has already recognized the fact that trees more than 50-year-old are heritage trees, and that the decision of felling more than 200 trees should not be in the hands of the local civic body. What if by the time the rules come into force, we have already lost Ajni Vann?
It will be an irreparable damage and we appeal to state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray to immediately intervene,” said young green crusader Kunal Mourya.
Stating that the new rules don’t state anything about pending tree-felling proposals, lawyer and activist Ankita Shah said, “To save green lungs facing immediate threat, the state should either expedite the process of implementing new rules or bring in a provision to put such projects on hold. Thackeray, being a youth icon and a champion for environment, should step in and save Ajni Vann like he did at Aarey.”
In Nagpur, current projects that include felling more than 200 trees are IMS phase 1 at Ajni, felling 249 trees at Futala by MahaMetro, and felling 250 trees at the premises of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) for Ajni metro station’s parking area, besides some other projects.
Environmentalist Anasuya Kale Chhabrani said that till the existing law is amended, state should put a stay on proposed projects involving felling of more than 200 trees. “Despite receiving thousands of objections, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has not conducted the mandatory public hearing. Now, all these cases should directly get transferred to the state tree authority,” she added. The last date for submitting objections for tree felling at Ajni is June 30.