Thirteen of 21 trees along Old Nagardas Road, Andheri (East) were cut down on Saturday for road-widening purposes by the civic body. Residents filed complaints against the contractor employed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) with the civic body’s garden department and local police.
All 34 trees were supposed to be transplanted according to documents provided by contractors to residents (a copy of which was shared with HT). The remaining 21 trees will be hacked on Monday, said residents.
“Full-grown Ashoka trees, almost 30 years old, have been chopped mercilessly by the contractors, instead of transplanting them (pulling them out from the root ball and planting them elsewhere)” said an Andheri resident and member of Aarey Conservation Group. “The police has accepted my complaint but the fate of the remaining trees is hanging in the balance until some action is taken by the garden department.”
The resident added that the road hardly had any space left for widening. “The work do not justify the removal of 34 healthy trees and reduce the green cover of the city plagued with air pollution problems,” the resident said.
The BMC’s tree authority permitted the felling of 25,018 trees between 2010 and 2016, revealed a right-to-information (RTI) response by the department. However, it failed to provide records for the number of trees replanted or transplanted in their stead over seven years.
According to the permission letter from the garden department to the local ward office, the road at Andheri (East) has 50 trees, of which 34 trees needed to be transplanted. The remaining 16 trees were saved from the axe. Additionally, pictures of the transplanted trees need to be submitted by the ward to the tree department.
Activist and Khar resident Zoru Bathena also filed a complaint with tree officers on Saturday. “Nowhere in the permission does it say where the trees will be transplanted. As per road widening rules, the trees need to be transplanted at the side of the new road but they have been cut to size,” he said.
Tree officers passed the buck on to the ward office. “We have only given permission for transplantation not hacking. The residents need to check with the ward office,” said Jitendra Pardeshi, superintendent of gardens.
Officials from K-East ward said only tree pruning was carried out. “The branches of only a few trees that were creating issues with the road alignment were cut and remaining were pruned. Same work will be done on Monday,” said a BMC official from K East.