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Illegal tree-cutting continues in Mumbai: 12 FIRs filed last year, no action yet

Conservationists and activists allege that the illegal cutting of trees is much higher and the authorities are not taking this issue seriously.

mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2018 10:34 IST
Sanjana Bhalerao
Sanjana Bhalerao
Hindustan Times
mumbai news,illegal tree cutting,tree trimming
These tree opposite Girgaum Chowpatty were illegally trimmed, claim activists. (HT Photo)

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has filed First Information Reports (FIR) against unknown persons, advertising and hoarding companies only in 12 cases of illegal hacking of trees, in the past one year.

Conservationists and activists allege that the illegal cutting of trees is much higher and the authorities are not taking this issue seriously.

After witnessing illegal cutting of trees opposite chowpatty in Girgaum, in December last year, the BMC got into action and filed an FIR.

However, no action has been taken in the last four months.

“The investigation is police’s work. We filed a complained in the Girgaum chowpatty incident. If police need us for technical help, our officers are called,” said Jitendra Pardeshi, BMC’s superintendent of gardens.

Pardeshi said, “We have filed more than 12 FIRs, but the data is not readily available.”

Conservationists have also alleged that trees, which hinder the construction or development projects, are deliberately poisoned.

“This is not the only case. I have spotted illegal hacking of trees in Goregaon. Most of the rain trees by the road are dying. You will suddenly see trees being cut near construction sites as they are a hindrance,” said Stalin D, an environmentalist, who is also collecting data on illegal hacking of trees.

Several incidents of hacking or removing trees were also witnessed in suburbs like Mulund, but no action was taken against any individual or organisation.

“There is no scientific mind applied, when tree-trimming or cutting is undertaken. It is purely judged on the amount of inconvenience it causes. If a tree is coming in the way of construction work, or obstructing the view, it is cut without any permission and the BMC also does not follow up or take action hence, giving these people a free hand,” said GR Vora, an activist, who had also complained about illegal cutting of trees in Matunga.

When the BMC was contacted, an official from the garden department said that data is not available and in many cases it has been witnessed that complaints have been raised following interior motives and malaise against an individual.

“After we receive complaints, we ask the license department the information of the billboard owners and file complaints under the Maharashtra (Urban areas) Preservation of Tree Act, 1975. However, as there is no proof, there has been no action. There have been 12 FIRs till now,” said a civic official on condition of anonymity. No action has been taken yet in the 12 FIRs.

According to the Act, a buffer of 25 meters has to be maintained around a tree. As a penalty, once proved, the BMC can forfeit the deposit of the hoarding company for illegal cutting of trees.

To add to the woes, the 15-member tree authority, whose role is to protect and preserve trees and take action against illegal cutting, has not met in over two months.

First Published: Apr 12, 2018 10:34 IST