The civic body has not learned its lesson. After four people were killed and at least 13 injured due to falling branches and trees during last year’s monsoon, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had claimed that it would overhaul its tree-pruning mechanism. But it seems to be back to its old ways.
Suhas Karvande, deputy municipal commissioner (gardens), admitted that no major changes had been made in the tree-pruning mechanism this year. “But we are carrying out a careful evaluation of all trees in the city. Accordingly, we are taking necessary steps to prevent collapse of trees and branches which we find are dangerous.”
Last year, the Hindustan Times had carried a series of reports highlighting the civic body’s negligence in pruning of trees in the city. Experts repeatedly blamed inadequate equipment, unscientific way of inspection, and lack of skilled manpower for the incidents.
The civic body had then agreed to introduce a list of measures, including training its staff and upgrading equipment used to prune trees. When contacted, Aseem Gupta, additional municipal commissioner, said, “We have had some training sessions for our horticulture assistants, but it clearly isn’t enough. We need more such training sessions to ensure that they perfect the science behind trimming of trees.”
Gupta said citizens could lodge complaints about dangerous trees on the helpline 1916 and that priority would be given to those complaints.
However, experts have slammed the civic body’s nonchalance in dealing with the issue.
Avinash Kubal, a tree authority member and deputy director of Maharashtra Nature Park, said, “There is absolutely no change in the way trees are being pruned this year.”
Niranjan Shetty, another tree authority member, said pruning of trees continued to be done in an unscientific manner. “There are no proper tools provided to the labourers. This, even after the tree authority demanded that the tools be upgraded. The BMC refuses to take note of our demand.”
The civic body currently has only three vehicle-mounted ladders to trim tall trees. These are shared by 24 wards across the city. “We don’t have any plans of acquiring more ladders right now,” Karvande said.
Experts, however, say that it isn’t too late. “If it wants, the civic body can still start collecting data on all trees in the city. Accordingly, it could form a committee of experts that could inspect the dangerous trees and take action,” said Kubal.