The civic body has three months to remove concrete from around trees across Mumbai. In a significant order, the Pune bench of the National Green Tribunal has directed the BMC to remove concrete within a radius of one metre around trunks of trees, and ensure that no construction or repair work is done in that space.
“In case, work is not carried, he [NGO Vanashakti] may press the application further,” stated the division bench comprising justice VR Kingaonkar and expert member Ajay Deshpande, who kept the next hearing for May. The Pune bench had last week asked the civic body to refer to the order passed by the tribunal’s principal bench chaired by justice Swatanter Kumar in April 2013, which ordered public authorities in Delhi to de-concretise the area around trees.
The tribunal was hearing the matter based on an application filed by Vanashakti, to revive and protect dying rain trees in Mumbai. In the past one year, 400 rain trees have died, while 1,200 are infected, said the application. Results of an extensive survey of 1,956 rain trees in November by Vanashakti and the botany department of Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College, Ghatkopar, had found that 71.77% of the trees were infested with mealybug.
Further investigations revealed concretisation of pavements around the critical root zone of rain trees, and not primarily mealybug infestation, was responsible for the death of several rain trees.
Surprisingly, 143 trees on Aarey Road, Goregaon, were found to be devoid of any infestation because the area around them was not concretised. Seeking to preserve the tree cover in the city especially rain trees, the application stated that concretisation of tree base and pavements have resulted in full-grown trees to become weak, resulting in the death of a large number of trees.
The study found that concretisation of pavements compromised the health and immunity of the rain trees by depriving them of air, water and nourishment. “Tree basins must be constructed on the road so that no one can touch the trees and new trees can be planted. At present, rain water doesn’t seep into the subsoil and as result, roots cannot find water,” said Stalin D of Vanashakti.