Mumbai civic body gave nod to remove 8,775 trees in 2018 for urban projects
The tree authority of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued permissions for the removal of 8,775 trees in 2018, revealed a study of newspaper advertisements issued by the BMC last year. The data was collated by activist Zoru Bathena. Although some of these are proposals and have not resulted in trees actually being felled, the published notices add up to an average loss of 24 trees per day in 2018.
Bathena analysed BMC’s published announcements between January 5 and December 28, 2018, and found 52 notices were issued for felling 8,775 trees in 2018, mostly for infrastructure projects such as the Monorail and Metro, and road widening work. As many as 2,300 of these trees were at Aarey Milk Colony, which are yet to be felled. The others have already been either cut or transplanted.
“Tree removal includes cutting and transplantation, but transplantation is as good as killing the tree because they rarely survive. Moreover, roadside trees are responsible for groundwater security,” said Bathena. “As per sources from the BMC, the current rate of transplantation is 15% for Mumbai. Two court-monitored committees ensured the transplantation rate for trees under the Metro 3 project was 50%.” Bathena, who has filed a petition in the Bombay high court against indiscriminate tree felling, will submit her findings in the form of a report during the next hearing.
An official from the BMC’s garden department, requesting anonymity since the matter was sub judice, said, “While the data for permissions are correct, only 20% trees have been cut since the HC directed us to include expert members in the tree authority in October last year. Survival of transplanted trees is 70%,” the official said. “Additionally, we ensure that trees that are 20 years old and above should not be cut under any circumstances. There is more awareness among developers to protect green cover over the past three years.”
An official from BMC’s standing committee and former tree authority in-charge said the garden authority was under pressure from developers and other departments. “There is a substantial rise in proposals for tree cutting over the past two years, and it is only going to increase,” he said. Between January 1 till April 5 this year, 12 tree felling notices were issued by BMC, affecting 3,588 trees or an average of 37 trees per day.
Town planners said laws from the state and Centre require the loss of one tree be compensated by planting five more, but this was not being done in Mumbai. “The implementation of these rules is woefully inadequate with BMC lacking in rigour,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director of the urban design research institute. “Mumbai needs infrastructure, but not at the cost of losing its entire tree cover, which is essential for the design of any mega city.”