A day after BMC’s disastrous decision to fell 2,700 trees to make way for a Metro carshed in Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony, Dr Shashirekha Suresh Kumar, independent expert who is also a member of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Tree Authority, has claimed that she never supported the indiscriminate cutting of 2,700 trees to make way for a metro car shed.
She first made this statement in an interview with Mirror Now. Sabrang India decided to dig further and asked her specifically about the vote. That’s when Dr Shashirekha Suresh Kumar dropped the bomb saying, “They didn’t ask us any specific questions they just said vote for or against and very honestly certain Marathi words were not understood by me, we were sitting in a line and those who understood said we should raise our hands and we raised our hands.”
This is shocking given the flak the experts were facing, especially on social media, for supporting the environmentally disastrous decision. In fact, National Society of Friends of Trees, an environmental group, of which Dr. Shashirekha Suresh Kumar is a part has distanced it self from her decision to vote in favour of the cutting of trees. Their entire press release may be read here.
The BMC Tree Authority has 18 members of which 13 are corporators and five are independent domain experts. When the vote took place on August 29, Congress Party members walked out, Shiv Sena opposed, while the BJP and NCP members supported the felling of trees. Two experts were absent.
Dr. Shashirekha Suresh Kumar who is a botanist teaching at Mithibai College, reiterated that all the experts made was an observation NOT recommendation that there was a need to balance development with ecology. She stated that the tree authority meeting was chaotic, rushed and the independent experts were not made aware of the issue that was on hand when they were asked to vote. Dr. Shashirekha Suresh Kumar says she has also complained in writing to the BMC.
She said that in the meeting itself the experts were not clearly communicated to about the details of the issue was on hand, “We understood that a discussion on the Metro Car shed was taking place not specifically on the trees being cut, I am shocked that it is being reported that we support cutting all the trees.” She further stated that there was not enough time or arrangements made to conduct a tree census or for the experts to advise which trees or the number of trees that needed to be cut. “We were appointed on May 19th 2019 there was only 3 visit, how can we do a census in that?” she stated adding that all the Tree Authority did was viewings.