Morning walkers at the Worli Sea Face were surprised to find 20 date palm trees planted along the promenade on Wednesday.
The BMC had transplanted the trees on Tuesday night. The move by the civic body’s garden department comes after almost 50 trees either died or dried up along the promenade over the past two years. Officials from garden department said that if these 15-foot-long trees survive, the project will be replicated along the Haji Ali promenade as well.
Botanists, however, said that it was a poor choice of trees for an area along the coast, as the species - date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) – has a survival rate of 50%.
Meanwhile, residents have welcomed the move. “A lot of effort has gone into transplanting these trees at Worli. It is our duty as citizens to give the civic body time to see how these trees survive in its new habitat. It will be a welcome change for morning walkers,” said Dr Neelam Nijhara, secretary, Worli walkers association and member of Worli sea face forum.
HT first reported in August 2015 that Samudraphal trees (barringtonia racemosa) planted on the walking track along the Worli Sea Face promenade started dying mysteriously. Environmentalists said that the tree bases hardly had any soil and comprised mostly concrete which prevented water from reaching the roots. Others said that the trees, especially their roots, were affected by sea water that floods the walkway during high tide.
Civic officials confirmed that the Samudraphal trees were not being able to survive in the promenade. This prompted the department to select a new variety that would have a better chance of survival. “The Worli Sea Face is extremely windy and often — especially during the monsoon — trees get bruised because of the wind,” said Amol Vasaikar, assistant superintendent, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) garden department. He added, “Also, the spray of salt water from the sea during high tide used to percolate at the base of the trees and leaves. During sunny days, the leaves absorbed the salt and this caused the trees to dry up.”
Vasaikar said that the date palm tree was an appropriate selection for the promenade as it could withstand both high winds and salt water.
Botanists, however, said there was no historic record of date palms being planted along the Mumbai coast. “While these trees may survive, it is not an appropriate choice for a city like Mumbai. They have a 50% chance of surviving and they cannot withstand the high amount of salt deposition,” said expert botanist, Marselin Almeida.