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Builders irked after BMC refuses to grant NOCs for tree-cutting

ByDraupadi Rohera
Jun 16, 2024 08:28 AM IST

Sources point out that Gagrani believes the current process of transplanting new saplings in place of the old ones is not working, as the saplings do not survive. He therefore wants builders to transplant new saplings according to the age of the tree being felled

MUMBAI: The builder lobby in Mumbai is angry and upset with the new municipal commissioner, Bhushan Gagrani. Reason: their redevelopment projects have been stalled and put on hold for the last two months, as the commissioner has refused to clear and grant NOCs to them for tree-cutting.

Mumbai, India – Mar 20, 2024: I. Q. Chahal handing over charges to newly appointed Municipal Commissioner Bhushan Gagrani at the BMC office, in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, Mar 20, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

Given the rampant redevelopment activity under way in the city and the consequent large-scale felling of trees, the commissioner is reported to have referred back some 164 files to the superintendent of gardens for a “thorough recheck and review” of all applications for tree-cutting. Permissions for putting out public advertisements inviting objections and suggestions from citizens too have been denied till further notice, according to sources.

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Deputy municipal commissioner K Gandhi admitted that files had been referred back, as the commissioner wanted to save as many trees as possible. “With Mumbai in full redevelopment mode, he wants to protect Nature and the green cover,” he said. “Felling of trees on the periphery of a plot must stop. Only those trees that absolutely must be felled in the course of a project, for instance, a tree coming in the way of the plinth, driveway or foundation activity should be granted permission.”

Sources point out that Gagrani believes the current process of transplanting new saplings in place of the old ones is not working, as the saplings do not survive. He therefore wants builders to transplant new saplings according to the age of the tree being felled. “If a 50-year-old tree is to be cut, he wants the developer to plant 50 new saplings but in a proper scientific manner so that they survive,” they explained.

Developers, on the hand, are concerned about their project timelines going haywire. “I have already vacated the residents of my ongoing project, I am paying them transit rent, but I cannot move forward with the construction till I get the NOC for tree-cutting. I am in a limbo and my meter is down”, said one builder on condition of anonymity.

Another developer tried to find an alternative way of circumventing a big tree coming in the way of his project. “Luckily I was able to do so and my work has not been hampered as such,” he said.

Dr Adv Harshul Savla, managing partner, M Realty, pointed out that the BMC and the Tree Authority’s policies had changed from time to time, as a result of which there was a backlog of proposals pending before the department. “The NOCs are thus taking months,” he said. “The whole process is so cumbersome. It’s impacting our timelines and our projects are going for a toss.”

The move has mainly impacted newly launched redevelopment projects, said Prashant Sharma, president of the Maharashtra chapter of National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO), a body of real estate stakeholders. He admitted that builders were upset but “we are hopeful the commissioner will resolve this issue soon”.

Meanwhile CREDAI-MCHI, an association of 1,800 developers in Mumbai has also made a representation to the commissioner, requesting an early solution to the problem.

City environmentalists and activists, on the other hand, have welcomed the move saying it was long overdue. “The way redevelopment activity is surging in Mumbai with blanket permissions being granted to builders, there is a need to keep a check on rampant felling of trees. Development cannot happen at the cost of biodiversity,” said Kishore Rithe, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Dr Arun Sawant, president of the National Society of Friends of Trees maintained that there had to be a proper assessment of the trees being felled even as development was allowed to take place. “Cutting has to be as per the provisions of the Tree Act and must be based on merit,” he said. “Before allowing a tree to be cut, the authorities must ensure that a tree has been transplanted in its place.”

According to environmentalist Debi Goenka, a tree census of the number of trees felled and transplanted is done every three years but the BMC is not making the data public. “I have asked for a copy but my request has been stonewalled,” he said.

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