An attempt to emulate the decades-old Chipko movement came to naught for Tardeo residents, as local ward officials brushed them aside and cut down branches of trees in their locality.
“Instead of trimming the tree’s weak branches, they were hacking healthy secondary branches. When we asked them to spare the two Gulmohar trees located on our footpath, they threatened to lodge a police complaint against us,” said Riddhi Chokhawala, one of the protestors on Sleater Road last week. “In spite of voicing our objections and telling the officials that we would take responsibility for the trees, they paid no heed.”
According to other residents and tree lovers in the area, the ward officials had already completed two rounds of trimming dangerous trees in the area. Residents claimed they were rudely awoken by the sounds of branches being hacked by civic officials last week. “Under the pretext of trimming trees, hacking has become a norm,” said Rohini Kelkar, a resident, who approached higher civic officials and submitted a letter addressed to the civic chief. “Instead of protecting and saving the trees, officials from the gardens department are cutting down healthy ones. They claim to be reducing the weight of the tree by removing the healthy lower branches.”
The residents also allege that in an attempt to widen the roads six years ago, footpaths supporting the age-old trees were removed, thereby weakening their roots. Defending their stand, ward officials said they were only taking precautionary measures to prevent tree falls and related accidents during the on-going monsoon. “We trimmed the branches to help the trees maintain balance. In case a tree falls, the same residents will blame us. Thus, we went ahead with the trimming measures,” said Parag Masurkar, assistant commissioner, D-ward. “After residents complained, we also asked the higher authorities to inspect the spot and the pruning techniques.”