Activists call for better system to maintain trees | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Activists call for better system to maintain trees

Anjani Telang (44), a teacher with Bombay Scottish School at Mahim, is an environmentalist at heart. In March 1996, she was at the forefront of the campaign against the chopping of trees along Ambedkar Road at Sion to widen the road and construct a flyover.

mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2010 00:34 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

Anjani Telang (44), a teacher with Bombay Scottish School at Mahim, is an environmentalist at heart. In March 1996, she was at the forefront of the campaign against the chopping of trees along Ambedkar Road at Sion to widen the road and construct a flyover.

Ironically, it was a tree that forced her to take the most heart-wrenching decision of her life — giving the go-ahead for the amputation of her daughter Antara’s right leg. Just off Ambedkar Road, a tree branch fell on Antara’s leg, crushing it on July 24.

Yet, Anjani pleaded that the city’s trees be maintained, never chopped.

“I joined the campaign after I saw a large rain tree being chopped to make way for a flyover. But Antara’s accident occurred because the tree hadn’t been looked after and was growing dangerously,” said Anjani. “There should be a system where trees are maintained regularly.”

Often, trees are hacked in the name of pruning to ensure hoardings and shop signs get a good display.

“A few days ago, a tree was hacked outside Wilson College in the name of pruning. It was clearly done to allow a good view of a hoarding,” said Dr Anahita Pandole, a gynaecologist-turned-activist who filed a public interest litigation against illegal hoardings and keeps a tab on trees that are hacked to allow advertising boards a clear display. “Trees are never spared; hoardings get priority. No permissions are taken, there is no system to monitor this practice and no trained staff to look after trees,” said Pandole.

It’s a similar situation when major infrastructure projects are launched. There are promises that chopped trees will be transplanted, but they are never kept. In March 2007, the Tree Authority permitted the felling of 115 trees to allow for the Gateway of India’s makeover. The permission came with the rider that 78 trees should be transplanted nearby, while 66 trees would be kept where they were.

A year later, only 15 bottle palms had been transplanted.

“At Oval Maidan, we kept asking for permissions to prune palms, but they take months. For government projects, permissions are fast-tracked, trees are hacked mercilessly and never transplanted,” said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of the Oval Maidan Trust who along with the Colaba Tourists Welfare Association opposed the Gateway tree chopping.

After Hindustan Times reported Antara’s accident, the civic body decided to redraw the rules for cutting and pruning of trees. But environmentalists doubted that the new rules would be pro-environment.

Environmentalist Ajay Marathe said even when trees are not chopped, they are often damaged. “Ropes are tied around trees to erect temporary structures or support is taken from the branches for hoardings,” he pointed out.