Mumbai to make space for buildings: Decade-old trees will be cut within 12 days | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai to make space for buildings: Decade-old trees will be cut within 12 days

The urban development department amended the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, to reduce the time taken to get approvals for cutting trees to 12 days

mumbai Updated: Aug 16, 2017 13:26 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai trees,Mumbai development
The notification on the changes, issued last week, stated the amendments were part of the Centre’s ‘ease of doing business’ policy to speed up projects. (File)

Cutting trees for construction projects such as Metro in Mumbai is all set to get easier.

The state government amended the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, in January to reduce the time taken to get approvals for cutting trees to 12 days.

Also, if the number of trees to be cut is fewer than 25, there is no need for a municipal officer to inspect it. Private agencies and citizens can submit images of the site and trees to be felled to get the approval.

Read: Mumbai needs the Metro 3 and trees too

Earlier, a tree officer would check every tree, hold inquiries and look into the objections, taking at least a month to give permission.

The notification on the changes, issued recently by the urban development department, stated the amendments were part of the Centre’s ‘ease of doing business’ policy to speed up projects.

“The tree officer shall personally inspect the tree, hold an inquiry and publish notice in local newspapers inviting objections if any from the public and then submit his report within 12 days from the receipt of application,” the amendment read.

Read: Mumbai to get Metro-3, better connectivity, but lose 1,154 mangrove trees. Is it a good deal?

“The officer concerned shall upload the inspection report of felling trees online to Tree Authority within 48 hours from the date of site visit. If the number of trees to be felled is 25 or less, all functions and powers of the tree authority will be exercised by the respective municipal commissioner or chief officer or chief executive officer of the authority,” it adds.

The move has shocked activists. “There is no clarity on how trees may be saved. It [the rule] implies all trees will be cut. This is a mockery of the democratic process, where citizens have a say in protecting trees,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti. “The urgency to amend the law to facilitate speedy destruction of trees is in stark contrast to the CM’s speech asking people to protect the environment.”

Read: Metro 3 in Mumbai: Trees are not being planted properly at Aarey Colony, say activists

Officials from the urban development department said various projects, including the construction work for various metro projects under the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), were stalled owing to the lengthy process of obtaining permission for cutting trees.

“The idea is to avoid delay in construction projects and bring in uniformity in the site inspection process to obtain permissions for hacking trees,” said a senior official from the state urban development department.

According to BMC’s Environment Status Report (ESR) 2015-16, the city currently has 29,89,654 trees, compared to 24,11,508 in the previous ESR report. The increase was attributed to the census being carried out at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon for the report.

Read: What’s the value of 3,130 trees to be cut for Mumbai Metro-3 car shed? ₹742 crore a year, say activists

HT had reported earlier this year that an RTI response revealed that the BMC’s tree authority permitted the felling of 25,018 trees between 2010 and 2016. However, it failed to provide records for the number of trees replanted or transplanted over six years.

Dayanand said that due diligence and care are the basics of conservation. “The state is tweaking all laws and destroying trees at breakneck speed,” he said. “They cover it up by planting saplings, of which less than 5% survive.”

Read: World environment day: Mumbai lost 60% of its green cover in 40 years

First Published: Aug 16, 2017 13:06 IST