More than a hundred trees have been felled at the Willingdon Colony in Santacruz to make way for a redevelopment project. But one condition, that these trees be transplanted at Aarey, has allegedly not been fulfilled. Instead, dead trees are being dumped at the site allotted at Aarey Colony.
The tree-felling at the Santacruz colony began after the Bombay HC and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) tree department cleared the project earlier this month. As a remedial measure, tree department officials said all trees uprooted from the century-old settlement will be transplanted at Aarey by the builders.
When HT visited the Willingdon Colony on Thursday, many trees were seen cut off from their base and into several pieces, and officials from the tree department and the builder were unable to answer questions about the transplanting site in Aarey.
At Aarey Colony, officials said the trees were not being transplanted. “We have provided an area near unit 16 for the transplantation, however, only dead trees are being dumped there,” said Gajanan Raut, chief executive officer, Aarey Colony.
Raut said he wrote to the tree department stating permissions should not be given if trees are not transplanted.
However, an official from the tree department said some 40 trees cut in February this year were immediately transplanted at Aarey Colony, while the remaining that were cut over the past week were transported at night.
“We used proper machinery to uproot the trees and transplant them. Some large trees, such as the gulmohar, are difficult to transport, and even if they are transplanted, there is little chance they will survive,” said the official.
Pravin Gosavi, the deputy superintendent of gardens, BMC said a checking mechanism was in place. “Private builders will give us photographs, and tell us the number of trees transplanted and a report on how many survived. If there are fewer trees than mentioned in the report, we act under the Tree Preservation Act.”
Residents of Willingdon Colony are not happy. A resident Shaista Mogul managed to stall local builders from removing a 40-foot gulmohar tree next to her bungalow. “The colony used to be a green lung. Over the past seven days, it almost seems like a massacre took place,” she said.
“We will plant a new batch of trees as soon as the redevelopment process starts. The trees felled are part of the first phase of the project,” said Ramesh Shah, owner of the construction company.