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  Home >> Gardens, Playgrounds & Trees >> Gardens and Statutory Protection of Trees

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 human settlements.
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?
Best wishes.
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

Dec 8, 2005

It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner