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Trees near Flora Fountain dry up, experts suspect poisoning

The building in front of the trees was being restored will soon house a major Spanish clothing store.

mumbai Updated: Apr 21, 2017 17:49 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Flora Fountain,trees,Hutatma Chowk
Dried up trees in front of located in front of the neo-classical four-storey Ismail building that was restored last year (HT photo)

Two fully grown Portia trees (Thespesia populnea) near Hutatma Chowk (Flora Fountain) that have dried up recently could have been poisoned, an environment group has said.

The trees — located in front of the neo-classical four-storey Ismail building that was restored last year — have mysteriously dried up while the remaining trees in the area have their foliage intact. The building will soon house a major Spanish clothing store.

NGO Vanashakti filed a complaint with the municipal corporation, state environment department and police on Tuesday, alleged that the trees could have been poisoned during the restoration work. “The purpose of damaging the trees was to improve the visibility of the building,” said Stalin D, project director, Vanashakti. “After speaking to the civic body’s tree department, we were told that one of the trees was dead. However, all the trees are alive and are desperately trying to recover.”

Stalin urged the civic body to act immediately and ensure that the trees grow back. “We are not asking for action to be taken against the violators since it is a wasted exercise and the BMC will file FIR against unknown people. We are requesting the civic body to water the trees properly before they die,” he said.

Experts said that foul play cannot be ruled out. “The Thespesia populnea is a native tree to coastal areas and is a hardy tree that does not dry up easily. If the roots of the tree come in contact with saline water then there are chances of drying. However, if that was the case all trees at the site would have had the same result,” said Marselin Almeida, expert botanist. “There needs to be a proper study and unlawful activities need to be checked by the police.”

Municipal officers said that they had already alerted the police about the issue. “We have written to the tree department and lodged a complaint with the local police to check with experts. They have not got back to us,” said an official from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s A ward.

The conservation architect who restored Ismail building, which is listed as a grade IIA protected structure under municipal heritage rules, refused to comment regarding the issue. Officials from MRA Marg police station said that they were investigating the issue. “The officer in-charge is unwell and has not contacted the experts yet. We will send our response to the civic body by the end of this week,” said Sukhlal Varpe, senior inspector, MRA Marg police station.

First Published: Apr 20, 2017 00:32 IST