New Delhi: The Mumbai Metro authorities, in the early hours of Saturday, started a tree cutting drive at the city’s Aarey Colony, just hours after the Bombay High Court, on Friday, turned down a petition against the felling of over 2,600 trees to construct a Metro shed at the site.

Activists, who gathered at the felling site after videos of trees being felled were circulated and went viral on social media, alleged that the authorities had already cut 200 trees. They raised slogans against the government before being detained and removed from the site by the Mumbai Police.

The activists also alleged that the trees were being cut illegally as, according to rules, once the cutting of trees is approved, orders for the same should be uploaded on a government website. Tree cutting can only begin 15 days after the documents are uploaded on the website.

Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, who will make his political debut in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections on October 21 and has been a vocal campaigner against the cutting of trees, too, tweeted: “The vigour with which the Mumbai Metro is slyly and swiftly cutting down an ecosystem in Aarey is shameful and disgusting. How about posting these officials in PoK, giving them charge to destroy terror camps rather than trees?”

The controversy pertains to the proposed construction of a car shed for the Mumbai Metro at the Aarey Colony, which has over five lakh trees. Residents and environmentalists feel that the depot will destroy the biodiversity and pave way for even more land exploitation in Aarey.

Actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar have supported the government, while others like John Abraham, Richa Chadha etc. have batted for the green belt.