The civic body’s deadline to remove concrete within a radius of one metre around trunks of all trees in the city is almost up, but the BMC is far from its goal.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in January had directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to remove concrete around tree trunks and bases as well as ensure that no construction or repair work is done in that space within three months. Consequently, the BMC’s gardens department had sent a letter to the chief engineer of roads on January 27, requesting him to disallow concretising of roads and footpaths till the tree level, specifying that space may be left for trees to breathe. But until April 1, only 273 tree bases were de-concretised, according to officials in the gardens department.
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A report on April 1 states that 27 trees in H-East ward (Bandra East), 36 trees in H West ward (Bandra West) and 210 trees in K East ward (Andheri East) have been deconcretised. “No other zone has provided data but work is on,” said a senior official from the gardens department.
A survey of trees in the city, submitted to the BMC in November last year, had shown how concretised tree bases lead to compromised immunity in rain trees, making them susceptible to infections and infestation.
Around 1,359 rain trees in the city have been affected by Mealy bugs giving them the leaf-less skeletal looks, found the ‘‘Rain Tree Preservation’ survey conducted by NGO Vanashakti, wildlife biologist Kavita Mallya and faculty of Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College, Ghatkopar.
The survey conducted between December 2013 and June 2014 found that all the 143 raintrees inspected at Aarey in Goregaon as well as rain trees in Godrej Colony and Nerul were healthy, while around 211 trees in BKC alone, and all trees (an average of 50) inspected in Versova, Kandivali, Parel, Borivali, Santacruz, Khar and Kandivali were infected.
The report concluded that unlike the case in most parts of the city, bases of trees in Aarey, Godrej colony and Nerul were un-concretised, letting the trees survive and grow in natural conditions like on a forest floor. The trees in these areas, as a result, showed health and uncompromised immunity, prompting the NGT to pass the order.
Meanwhile, Ashok Pawar, chief engineer, roads department, BMC, says that contractors working on ‘new’ roads are following the guidelines and are keeping 1.5 – 2 feet distance from each tree.
The NGO is now planning to move a contempt petition against the BMC lagging behind.