The great tree robbery: City loses green cover
State Govt’s Penchant For Wider Roads May Be Driving Mumbai Towards
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,’’
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.
KINDS OF TREES
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.
TREE BUDGET 2005
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.