Gardens and Statutory Protection of Trees
Dear Vinaybhai and Karmayogis,
It is good that Gardens and Trees have been taken up by Karmayogis.
Nature, whatever remnants of nature and trees now left out
of the clutches of official tree cutters, including bureaucrats,
seem to be heaving a sigh of relief that their
agony has at last drawn the attention of sensitive humans.
It would be worthwhile going baxk to the genesis of the
issue to understand and realise our duty to save the nature. Trees
and public open spaces, including recreation and play grounds,
abounded in Mumbai like any other place in the country. Some of
our cities like Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat
to illustrate cities within our easy reach were full of trees
such as bunian (vad- Ficus benghalensis and mysorensis), pimple
(peepul- Ficus reliogosa), mango (mangifera indica), neem (Azadirichta
indica), coconut (Cocos nucifera), putranjiva (Putranjiva roxburghii),
Sacred baobab (Adensonia digitata) coexisting with exotics
introduced in the nineteenth century like rain tree (Samania
saman), gulmohar (Orodoxa regia), laburnum (Cassia fistula),
Bhendi and Thespicia populnea etc. It was a pleasure to live
in naturally urbanising villages (that our cities were then).
Rampant cutting down of open spaces and trees started in the
1960s. Ratio of open space came down to 0.06 ha for
1000 population (as against 4 ha in London and 7 ha in US cities).
Feeling the agony of living in highly reduced open spaces and
treeless atmosphere, a few Bombayites agigated against the
rampant construction at FSI then ranging between 2.5 and 5.2 and
got it down to uniform 1.33 in the Island City and 1.00 in
suburbs with 0.5 in some environmentally fragile areas.
Bombay, now Mumbai, with an average population density of 27,000
persons per sq km (Census of India 2001) with some regions exceeding
100,000 is world's most congested city, suffocation
of which is experienced by everybody every moment.
The government has relaxed the FSI and Developnent Control
Rules in recent years beyond comprehension so much so that
it would not be a surprise if the congestion and crowding
increased and population density exceeded 40,000 at the next 2011
Census. London, in contrast, has a population density
of 1,200 per sq km.
The Maharashtra Urban Areas Preservation of Trees Act (the
Act for short) was enacted for the entire Maharashtra in 1975
in response to perseverent citizen agitation. Being
the first legislation in the country, it soon became the
model for other states to follow for preserving as well as
consciously and continuously augmenting the tree stock in
The Act has unfortunately become an ungraceful bone of
contention between citizens and the bureaucrats throughout Maharashtra
and more specifically in Mumbai. Citizens have agitated and to
some extent succeeded in making the Act
more stringent to assure the realisation of the twin goals
of conserving and augmenting the tree stock while the bureaucrats
have taken every effort to bypass and dilute the Act.
Recent messages on the Karmayog board show that the Act
has been mutilated by the government to defeat the very
object of the Act without informing and consulting
citizens. This Act would rank as the only one in the
state and country to be perennially handled and mishandled
to be defeat the very object of legislating in response to the
citizen needs and aspirations. From whatever dilutions it
has undergone, one can say that trees have become the evil
target of anti-environment actions of municipalities
including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).
The blame should be and is lying on the MCGM for making a mockery
of peoples' fervent expextations for survival of living beings. The
Act has now become the single serious anti-environment onslaught
on nature by the government.
We have to agitate against these inimical secret onslaught
on the survival of living beings. We must study the
original Act and the metamorphosis brought about by bureaucrats
so as to facilitate their cutting of trees. What are our plans?
Kisan Mehta Priya Salvi
Save Bombay Committee and Prakruti
620, Jame Jamshed Road, Dadar East,
Mumbai 400 014
Tel: 0091 22 2414 9688
Mobile: Kisan Mehta - 92234 48857
Priya Salvi - 93231 96420