The ancient trees that form a canopy along the 20kms Shirsad-Ambadi road in the Bhiwandi-Vasai taluka, Thane district that were set to be axed for a road-widening project are likely to be saved.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has now issued stopwork notice to the Vasai-Virar municipal corporation against hacking trees.
In June, the corporation had given approval to axe 292 trees across three villages, 46 of which would be transplanted.
“We are exploring alternative alignment to see if the ancient trees could be saved," said Valsa Nair Singh, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA.
For the last few months, environmentalists have been requesting the MMRDA for a realignment of the road to prevent trees from facing the axe.
HT had reported that data accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act had revealed that a total of 3,027 trees are under threat to make way for a four-lane road from the current two-lane that connects the national highways of Nashik, Pune and Gujarat.
This means that 150 trees – gulmohar, rain tree, banyan tree and fruit-bearing trees such as mango, coconut and almond – will be uprooted.
“It is imperative that we retain our natural heritage while embarking on development projects. Future generations may not have the privilege of a tree canopy along the road if we continue with reckless felling of ancient trees,” said Stalin D, director (projects) Vanashakti that accessed the information.
As per a tree census and inventory report by Ecobasics Ecology Consultancy and Services Pvt. Ltd., 338 of the 497 trees studied are marked for cutting on a road patch in Shirsad area.
“Apart from being important because they are being a feeding ground for animals, birds and insects, the thick canopy regulates the microclimate and hacking them could make the area warmer during the summer,” said H Tripathi, botanist at the consultancy.
The report revealed that the road has a considerable number of old trees that are ecologically and culturally important
A total of 259 trees have a girth (represents age, biomass value of a plantation) of more than 100cms indicating that trees are “healthy, old and big”.
The road patch contains a rich assemblage of species. Also, 376 of the 497 trees are evergreen while 114 are deciduous
The issue deserves attention as tree felling leads to evaporation of surface water in water bodies and soil erosion that affects water quality.