Thursdays victim of tree collapse Ashwini Satpute is one of at least 21 people who have died in the city due to tree mishaps in the past eight years.
According to data obtained from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) disaster management cell,at least 21 people have died and 110 injured in incidents of tree collapse since 2005. As many as 9,934 trees have fallen in the city between 2005 and 2011.
Green activists and tree experts said the major cause of such incidents is that the civic body does not give enough importance to the preservation of trees and does not have the knowledge or the equipment to do so anyway.
Time and again,we have asked for modern equipment to help detect a hollow or unhealthy tree (both major reasons for collapse),better pruning and cutting devices and transplantation equipment,which gives a high survival rate. But they still use rudimentary tools and methods,including a sickle and rope for trimming in some cases, said Nilesh Baxi,former nominated member of the BMCs Tree Authority.
They dont even know what pruning is. They hack trees ruthlessly instead of removing the excessive load to balance the tree. Leaving the raw part of the tree exposed post-trimming can make it go hollow but they dont put fungicide to protect it,despite being told, Baxi said.
Issues such as lack of manpower also affect maintenance of trees,said activists. The post of junior tree officer was created to look after the health of trees but one officer for each ward is not enough, said Niranjan Shetty,activist and former nominated member of the Tree Authority. Also,no reports about the health and maintenance of trees is given to the Tree Authority,which if done,can avert such calamities. The agenda of the Tree Authority meetings is always clearing proposals that require tree felling but prevention and preservation of trees is also their mandate,which is never discussed, he said.
The BMC,however,maintained it is doing its job to the best of its ability and that most cases of collapse,which caused death,happened on private premises that are not their mandate. Most of these incidents occur on private premises,which are not our responsibility. In fact,even Thursdays incident happened on private property, said Suhas Karvande,Deputy Municipal Commissioner,BMCs Garden Department.
However,activists said the line of reasoning taken by the civic body is incorrect and they cannot just abandon private premises. If they can collect tree cess from private premises,they have a responsibility to take care of the trees, said Baxi.
The BMC cannot absolve itself by saying it has given permission to cut. It should appoint agencies to prune or cut trees on private premises at a pre-defined cost,since hiring a contractor to do is is generally very expensive for citizens. Providing such a service will even help the civic body generate revenue, said Shetty.