As the civic body hits the panic button and aggressively starts pruning trees across the city to prevent further mishaps, environmentalists are worried that the trees will be trimmed unscientifically and get damaged.
“Branches have tissues that are capable of growing again. So pruning must be done in a manner that allows buds in the younger branches to grow,” said Swapna Prabhu, botanist with the Bombay Natural History Society.
“If the younger branches themselves are cut, the tree is bound to die,” Prabhu added.
The tree must also be pruned in way that its centre of gravity does not shift.
“Pruning should maintain the balance of the tree. At the same time, aesthetics should be maintained as there are sentiments attached with shade-giving canopies,” said Rishi Agarwal, environmental activist. “But either trees are not pruned or they are massacred.”
Environmentalists said the need of the hour is a special department within the Tree Authority with trained personnel, which will ensure that pruning is done systematically. “We can’t have tree-cutters who only use their axe and not their mind. We need biologists in the department. Untrained hands end up cutting more than necessary,” said Agarwal.
Ashok Kothari from Friends of Trees, a non-governmental organisation, said: “Most of the pruning is carried out on Saturdays and Sundays and there is no official to get in touch with if the trees are being trimmed more than required.”
Apart from pruning trees correctly, tree lovers said choosing the right tree for a particular spot can reduce the danger of falling branches and uprooting trees.
Gulmohar and Erythina Indica are trees highly susceptible to infection and have soft roots unlike native trees like Jarul, Karanj and Putranjiva. Thus, gulmohars tend to get uprooted easily in the monsoon.
Regular infrastructure work at a given spot can also destabilise trees, and the use of paver blocks on footpaths restricts the space required for the roots to spread, explained activists.
Environmentalists also said care should be taken that nobody gets rid of a tree entirely — it’s always a risk as branches can be sold for money.