The number of trees in the city has increased by 20% from last year, revealed figures from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Environment Status Report (ESR) 2015-16. According to the report, which is yet to be released publically, the city now has 29,89,654 trees as compared to 24,11,508 trees counted in ESR 2014-15.
The report states that N ward, which comprises Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Pant Nagar and Vidyavihar, accounted for the most number of trees at 2,86,894, while C ward, which comprises Marine Lines and Kalbadevi, accounted for the least number of trees at 5,756.
However, the BMC’s garden department officials said that the final figures will be out once they complete the count for four of the 24 civic wards. “While these figures in the ESR report are from April 2015 to March 2016 there has been an increase of another 5,000 trees from five more wards,” said Jitendra Pardeshi, superintendent of gardens.
“Owing to the monsoon, the tree census was put on hold, but it will resume soon. The census is likely to be completed by the end of this year,” said Pardeshi.
According to the report, the main reason for the rise in the number of trees is the large sapling plantation drives held at Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon, which was not included in last year’s report, as the area was considered as private land open to development. However, after NGO Vanashakti filed a petition at the National Green Tribunal, Pune, last year demanding that Aarey be made forest land, the area was included as a part of the tree census this year.
“Over the past two years, various plantation drives were carried out on open plots and hills under our jurisdiction. Also, by next year, we plan to plant around 1 lakh trees along roads and other areas under our jurisdiction,” said Pardeshi.
According to the ESR report, 16,336 trees were planted on city roads and open spaces over the past year. “Some of the work carried out by the garden department includes concrete, asphalt, tar and cement removed from around 27,385 trees, spraying insecticide and pesticide on infected trees, trimming 7,754 trees’ branches to balance trees, forming tree basins around trees and removing 392 dead and dangerous trees,” read the report.
Data could be inaccurate: Environmentalists
There was scepticism among environmentalists about the tree count. While some argued the data could be accurate, others begged to differ.
“The 20% increase in the number of trees was possible because of Aarey that is home to 4-lakh-plus trees that have been maintained well by Aarey authorities,” said Stalin Dayanand, project director, NGO Vanashakti.
Others said that some of the trees planted by the civic body did not help towards boosting the city’s biodiversity. “Trees planted in the city have a survival rate of 50% and the choice of trees being planted by the BMC are not suitable for Mumbai’s environment,” said Rene Vyas, tree expert who has conducted over 80 tree walks in Mumbai.
550 trees fell in city this monsoon: Tree department
While officials from the tree department said that of the more than 1,200 tree fall complaints registered in the city, 550 could be classified as tree falls.
“There were several complaints this monsoon of branch falls that were treated as tree fall complaints by residents. There is a huge difference between the two, but fatal incidents were lesser than what was witnessed in the previous years,” said Jitendra Pardeshi, superintendent of gardens.
On the other hand, botanists said tree fall incidents would have been much more as contractors hired by the civic body’s garden department continue to use unscientific techniques to prune tree branches. “Improper trimming forces trees to become slanted. This alters their original form and balance, which leads to tree fall during bad weather conditions,” said Marselin Almeida, botanist.