At a time when the civic body was expected to be in the final stages of completing its first high-tech tree census in the city, the process is yet to gather steam.
Controversy over the finalisation of the contractor as well as the possibility of a heavy cloud cover this monsoon obstructing the plotting of exact coordinates could further delay the BMC’s plan by a few more months, rued green activists. The year-long tree census is conducted once every five years.
“The tendering process is still in progress. As the contractor is yet to be finalised we are still unsure about the exact date of commencement of the census,” admitted SS Shinde, deputy municipal commissioner (gardens). “We are however, trying our best to begin it as soon as possible,” he added.
At present, the civic body is still relying on the findings of the tree census that was conducted in 2008. The previous census stated that the city's green cover had doubled from 9.5 lakh trees in 1998 to approximately 19 lakh in 2008.
Referring to it as an expensive and ambitious venture, tree experts claimed that further delays could have a direct impact on the city’s green cover. “In the last census, almost 92,000 dead trees were also counted. The BMC has already lost out on a crucial year in counting the trees. There should have been better groundwork before finalising the terms of the tender because a high-tech census of this nature is the first-of-its kind in India with no experienced vendors,” said former tree authority member Dr Nilesh Baxi.
Through the project, estimated to cost Rs6 crore, officials are hoping to identify the biologica names of the trees and enlist details such as girth, height and life expectancy. The data will then be uploaded on its server along with their GPS markers.
“With permissions for hacking trees being given in large numbers and no clear records on those that are replanted subsequently, it is important that a census be conducted to get a clear idea of the city’s green cover,” said a former tree authority member.