Activists in several areas across the city have reason to be hopeful about Holi this year – they claim that cutting of trees for traditional Holi bonfires has reduced significantly, thanks to their intensive awareness drives in the past few years.
“We were very worried before Holi last year because instances of tree cutting were rising each year, but this time we have come across very few cases in our area,” said Gaurang Vora, a Sion resident and member of the F-North Ward Citizen’s Federation.
In 2009, Vora and his team detected more than 25 tree-cutting cases which they reported to the ward’s horticulture assistant, but in 2010, the numbers reduced by more than 50% as only 10-12 cases were reported.
“Through pamphlets and oral messages in every colony, we had asked residents to be alert about trees being cut around them,” said Vora. “We hope this year the figures drop even further.”
In Khar, activists have been working closely with local slum-dwellers, who are usually the perpetrators of tree cutting, advising them to preserve wood from trees that fall in the monsoon for the purpose of Holi.
“Awareness has shot up in the past year and residents now not only strictly monitor their areas but also plant new trees in place of ones that were cut,” said Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of the H-West Ward Citizen’s Trust, which also recorded a 50% decline in Holi tree-chopping. “Even the police is more proactive now, and this Holi season, we have not received a single complaint so far.”
Juhu resident activist Zahida Banatwalla, however, believes the situation has not really improved in her area and claims that civic authorities continue to be apathetic to the problem.
“Tree cutting is not restricted only to Holi. People here have openly been cutting trees for the winter and for other festivals such as Lohri, and the civic body is not vigilant in the least,” said Banatwalla, area representative of the K-West ward. “It is perhaps only in middle-class colonies that having bonfires may have reduced.”