With just four days left for Holi, Gaurang Vora and his team of citizen activists in Sion are arming themselves with cameras to protect trees in their neighbourhood.
The F-North Ward Citizens’ Federation intends to report anyone trying to chop trees for Holi bonfires, with photographic evidence. Cutting trees is a major environmental concern for citizens’ groups pushing for a green Holi this year.
“Despite increasing awareness about the environment, cutting of trees during Holi is rampant,” said Vora (48).
Vora estimates that large branches from nearly 50-60 trees are chopped each Holi in the Sion-Wadala area, while four to five trees are razed to the ground annually.
Residents of Khar have already begun losing trees.
“The miscreants are usually from the slums and they do it at night,” said Anandini Thakoor, managing trustee of the Khar Residents’ Association, adding that the police and civic officials ignore their complaints.
Cutting public trees or their branches violates the Maharashtra Protection and Preservation of Trees Act 1975 as well as the Environment Protection Act 1986 (fine of up to Rs 1 lakh and/or a jail term of up to five years).
Countering the justification given by people cutting trees that religious festivals are not to be interfered with, Thakoor said, “If they must have a bonfire they can burn all the dry leaves and twigs that fall from trees all the time.”