Tower of Silence trees to stay

Assuring the protection of the trees in the Towers of Silence, the Zoroastrian crematorium, better known as Doongerwadi, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the BMC to submit an undertaking to the court stating that no trees would be cut or damaged because of the double decker hoarding erected at the heritage precinct.

Activist Anahita Pandole moved the Bombay High Court seeking permission granted by the Heritage Committee and the No-objection Certificate (NOC) granted by the BMC on April 26 to raise an illuminated hoarding in Doongerwadi, which is visible from the Kemps Corner Flyover. The hoarding has been erected by Lewis Advertisers, a private party stating they had permission from the BMC. Pandole has prayed to the court that the hoarding be removed from Doongerwadi as it is against an HC order of April 2003.

Senior Counsel Iqbal Chagla told the court that the hoarding was put up in violation of heritage rules. Photographs submitted to the HC show that only two of the three horizontal bars on the tall structure built to display the advertisements, were visible and the lowest one was covered by trees. Chagla further said that if the trees cover the hoarding they would be cut to give visibility to the advertisers. A division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice SC Dharmadhikari however took an undertaking from BMC counsel KK Singhvi stating that the trees in the area would not be harmed.

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Pandole’s supporting affidavit states that the Towers of Silence, where the Parsis lay their dead in open wells called ‘dakhmas’, is a listed Grade II B heritage precinct. Its special feature being its ‘Green Belt’ that stands since the eighteenth century. A Bombay HC order of April 23, 2003 states that no trees near heritage structures in Mumbai should be cut, felled or mutilated. Chagla also pointed out to the court that the Supreme Court had also upheld a ban on hoardings near heritage structures last year.

The Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) that maintains the complex however contends that it had sought all the necessary permission to erect the hoarding. It stands to gain Rs30 crore annua lly from leasing out the place to advertisers.