Three years after tree census began, Thane still clueless about green cover
While the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has been swiftly clearing proposals to cut or transplant trees in the way of various infrastructure projects in the city, it is yet to complete its tree survey that it started one-and-a-half years ago.
Although the civic body has claimed to have planted more than 6 lakh trees in the past three years, there is no way to validate it unless the census is released publicly.
The last tree census, which is carried out every five years for a period of six months, was completed in 2011, and showed Thane had almost 4.5 lakh trees belonging to more than 300 species.
It took a public interest litigation in the Bombay high court (HC) to get the TMC to start its next survey in October 2017.
Environmentalist Rohit Joshi said the civic body cited a lack of funds in their budget to carry out the tree survey. “This census was supposed to be done in 2016. They have the budget to spend on developing vertical gardens but not on a tree census, which is very unfortunate,” he said.
The TMC’s budget for the 2011 tree census was ₹75 lakh, which increased to ₹85 lakh for the one in 2017.
Vikrant Tawade, a member of the TMC’s tree committee said the current census was stuck over the issue of planting 1 lakh aromatic trees in Mumbra. “The standing committee has demanded an enquiry into this plantation,” he said.
Anuradha Babar, an official with the TMC’s tree department said most trees in the city have been geo-tagged, with the details uploaded on their website. “We can’t say for sure when the census will be completed,” she said.
The corporation, though, has handed out notices over the past week to cut more than 3,000 trees — details of which are yet to be uploaded online. Only a census would provide a complete picture of how many trees have survived, have been newly planted or razed in the past five years besides giving information on the diversity of species within the city.
Tawade said the tree committee, in its recent meeting, suggested changing the agency hired by the civic body to carry out the tree survey. “But we also thought we should ask them [the agency] to speed up the work because they were the ones who carried out most of the work,” he said.
According to Tawade, the previous census took three years to complete and even then, a PIL had been filed in the high court regarding the delay. “The court had asked to use Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) and ensure people can check all the trees in a city at the click of a button. All the city’s trees need to be mapped,” he said.