The Samudraphal trees planted on the walking track along the Worli Sea Face promenade have been mysteriously dying.
The trees were planted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s tree department a few years ago, and are also the most common trees on the Marine Drive walkway.
Dried-up Samudraphal trees along the Worli Sea Face. Experts blame the rain, sea water. (Kunal Patil/HT photo)
While environment watchers said the shallow depth of the soil was making it difficult for water to reach the roots, some others said the trees could be affected by sea water that floods the walkway during high tide.
“Trees are suffering in different parts of the city, this is only the latest example. Insensitive (road) contractors are suffocating the trees by replacing the natural soil with rubble and gravel,” said Stalin Dayanand, project director of the environment activist group Vanashakti.
Stalin said all trees need at least a two-metre depth for water to seep in to the roots. “There is concrete below these trees. If the soil is rich, the trees will be strong from the base,” he said.
According to Rene Vyas, who has conducted more than 60 tree-appreciation walks across the city, the salt in the sea water could be causing the trees to shed leaves. “Samudraphal is a coastal tree, many of which have been planted along the Worli Sea Face and Marine Drive. They are an apt choice, but the trees should be planted at a distance from the waterline to prevent salt water ingression,” said Vyas. The trees need to be observed more to find out the exact effect of the salt water, Vyas said.
HT visited the spot and found close to 10 trees in a row had lost their leaves. The barks looked unhealthy.
“Every year, for the past five or six years during monsoons, a lot of trees along the sea face dry up. But once the rain stops, most of them regain their leaves. Some others die,” said Dr Neelam Nijhara, the secretary of the Worli Walkers Association and a member of Worli Sea Face Forum.
Nijhara said too much rain and sea breeze is mainly responsible for this phenomenon. “But I am not aware of the scientific cause.”
The BMC’s garden department said trees shedding leaves is a natural process.
“During the monsoon, winds carrying moisture and salt get deposited on the leaves. When it rains, the leaves absorb these salts mixed with rainwater. This affects the leaves, which fall off owing to the strong winds from the sea,” said a senior official from the garden department.
The official said there are 350 Samudraphal trees on both sides of the Worli Sea Face road.
“We planted 50 more in July as this is the only species that survives here. We had coconut trees both at Marine Drive and Worli, but they all died during the monsoon,” he said.