Who is responsible for Antara Telang’s (18) life changing forever? An untrimmed tree branch fell on her right leg, crushing it and forcing an amputation on July 24.
It is the civic body that is responsible for inspecting trees and ensuring that the ones growing dangerously are trimmed. “We are responsible for any tree that is growing dangerously over a public space, such as a road. We will survey the area and see what can be done,” said Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Gardens) Chandrashekhar Rokade.
The spunky, talented Telang, who loves dancing to Bollywood numbers, will need a prosthetic for the rest of her life because of someone else’s negligence.
Even now, the tree has several branches jutting across the 30-ft road used by pedestrians and motorists to travel from Guru Tegh Bahadur station to Sion’s Ambedkar Road.
“According to the civic rules, the Garden Department is supposed to keep an eye on trees, through its ward-level horticulture officer, and carry out four trimmings on such trees every year. The trimming needs to be done on all sides, even branches growing towards the road,” said Dr Nikhil Bakshi, a member of the civic Tree Authority that gives tree cutting and pruning sanctions in Mumbai.
Bakshi is quick to add that residents should stay alert too since the department is short-staffed. Residents can inform the ward office or call 1916 if any tree is growing dangerously. “It is a joint responsibility. Residents must keep track of the trees,” said Nayana Kathpalia, trustee of the Oval Trust.
Activists point to a Supreme Court order of May 1999, against the Delhi civic body, that said that the primary responsibility in such cases is of the civic body. But, it also calls for vigilance from premises owners and residents. It also calls for the civic body to compensate the injured.
The court order said “the Horticulture Department of the corporation should carry out periodic inspections of trees and should have taken safety precaution to see that the road was safe for its users and such adjoining trees were dried or dead and had projecting branches which could have proved dangerous for passersby”.
Lawyer Shirin Bharucha, also a trustee of the Oval Maidan Trust, said: “We write to the Tree Authority to prune dangerous branches, but the permissions take months to arrive.”