Maha appoints infra companies as consultants for tree planting & protection works in urban areas
The decision has not gone down well with environmentalists and members of the tree authority committee who feel it undermines their expertise
Approving the empanelment of three Mumbai-based infrastructure companies on Tuesday, the state government has directed all corporations (local tree authorities) to consult these companies for tree planting, technical advice, and related preservation and protection works in urban areas. However, the decision has not gone down well with environmentalists and members of the tree authority committee who feel it undermines their expertise.
The three infrastructure companies, the empanelment of which has been approved by the state government, include: Oscorp Infra Solution Private Limited (Santacruz west); S K Enterprise (Bandra west); and N K Shah Infra Projects (Khetwadi Lane). The empanelment of these companies was approved by Chandrakant Vibute, deputy secretary, environment and climate department of Maharashtra. The state has now permitted all corporations to seek the lowest price tender (L1) from these companies for tree planting, technical advice, and related preservation and protection works. The state has further informed that the approved list will remain valid for one year.
Already, there is the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, in place to safeguard and conserve trees in urban areas. The act empowers local tree authorities to make decisions regarding tree cutting, and has provisions for seeking technical advice from tree experts appointed for the purpose. By approving the empanelment of these infrastructure companies for providing technical advice to the local tree authorities, the state is ensuring the ready availability of expert guidance, with proper experience and technical competence in tree cultivation, preservation and conservation.
The state government is implementing various schemes to plant and conserve trees to address the pressing need for increased forest resources in urban areas. Recognising the environmental impact of extensive tree felling, the authorities are keen on preserving the existing trees during infrastructure development projects. To counter the adverse impact on the environment, the government is actively enforcing tree regulations for sustainable development. Successful implementation of these regulations can play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of climate change.
However, Dr Sachin Punekar, environmentalist and former member of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) tree authority committee, said, “It is nothing but bypassing the tree authority committee. The committee comprises environmentalists and experts whose role is to guide, provide technical advice, and suggest tree plantation. If infrastructure companies take on these responsibilities, the state government should explain the purpose of the constituted tree authority committee. This raises concerns about the collaboration between the state government and the concerned companies as the government passed an order without any public demand or legislative process.”
Whereas civic activist Vijay Kumbhar pointed out, “Why appoint consultants to advise the experts? The government has chosen more individuals/companies to guide the expert members of the local tree authority. Isn’t it odd to have experts who need advice? Also, Suraj Samat is associated with both S K Enterprise and Oscorp Infra. If these two names refer to the same person, it seems like the government has made a decision to keep away from the tendering process and almost neutralise the Tree Preservation Act. Is this just coincidence or something else!”