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   Home >> Library index >> Trees >> The great tree robbery: City loses green cover 

The great tree robbery: City loses green cover 
State Govt’s Penchant For Wider Roads May Be Driving Mumbai Towards Environmental Disaster 

By Anjali Joseph/TNN 

Mumbai: Twelve thousand gone. And still counting. The state government’s penchant for wider roads may make your drive smoother but environmentalists fear that this will come at the cost of thousands of hacked trees. 
The widening of the Eastern Express Highway is a case in point. Five months after the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority got rapped on the knuckles by the Union environment ministry for 
chopping 12,000 trees in the fall of 2004 without permission, the agency—if NGOs tracking the issue are to be believed—has not transplanted even one of the 2,300 it promised to shift. 
“MMRDA has resumed work on the highway and has worked away at the roots of trees, damaging them,’’ former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya (it is his NGO, the Yuvak Pratisthan, that has followed the case) said. “Not one of them will survive transplantation even if it happens.’’ 
Not that there is any sign of MMRDA losing sleep over the issue. “The agency has not even identified the plot on which they are going to transplant the trees,’’ Somaiya added. He met Union environment minister A Raja and deputy inspector-general of forests Rekha Pai last week to show them photographs of the damage but was not very hopeful of even a single tree surviving the onslaught. 
The massacre on the Eastern Express Highway may have attracted more attention because of the numbers involved but it is not the only one. On Andheri’s leafy Veera Desai Road 120 old trees are now awaiting a verdict from the Tree Authority, which has been approached by MMRDA because it wants to widen the road to 120 feet. The trees have residents of the area on their side and have even come up with 
an alternative plan for MMRDA’s proposed link road from Dahisar to Bandra; if what they have worked out comes off, then the trees are going to form a natural divider between the main road and an additional lane for twoand three-wheelers. 
“We approached MMRDA with our plan and they told us to get it drawn up by a professional architect. We got that done and submitted it in February but were not able to meet senior officials,’’ Veera Desai Road resident S P Jathan said. 
Tree Authority member Madhu Sawant has pitched in with his support for the trees. “I have seen the alternative plan and it seems viable,’’ Sawant said. 
The story is repeated in Aarey Colony, where residents fear that a proposed link road will end up destroying thousands of trees. 


Cost of transplantation per tree: Rs 4,000 to Rs 20,000 (depending on the size and distance) 
Deposit Required by Tree Authority for Permission: Rs 4,000 or Rs 1,000 (for a government agency).The deposit is forfeited if the tree does not survive. So far circa Rs 40 lakh has been forfeited. 


Mumbai has 260 varieties of trees. 
Excessive plating of fastgrowing trees like gulmohur and copper pod is damaging the city’s biodiversity. 
Gulmohars have shallow roots and break easily in stormy weather. Last monsoon,TOI reported that the majority of 156 trees that crashed were gulmohur and peltoforum (rusty shield bearer). 
Species like rain trees and jambul are sturdier. 


Rs 14cr (an increase of over Rs 1cr on last year). 
Expenditure heads: maintainance and preservation of existing trees; planting new trees; running tree nurseries in each ward; planting trees in municipal dumping grounds. 
Staff: 12 at present,Tree Authority says it needs 40. 


NGO Friends of the Trees has 1,300-plus members and several hundred associates. If you see a fallen tree with roots undamaged it can be replanted. Contact Friends of the Trees on 2870860. If the trunk is broken, contact your local BMC ward office (for the number, see 


Cutting or even pruning a tree without permission from the Tree Officer can send you to prison for between a week and a year, and/or get you a fine of Rs 1,000-5,000. 
If you see a tree being cut, call the Tree Authority at Veer Jijamata Udyan on 23725799 and inform the local police station. 


Mumbai scores over Delhi, say activists, where trees are less well cared for. Kolkata enforces tree-protection laws more stringently, so that Kolkatans are more reluctant to interfere with their trees.