Now,even the trees along the Marine Drive promenade have become a pawn in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation-Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority blame-game. A project by the BMCs Tree Authority to replant 92 stunted or dead trees on the promenade with sturdier,10-12 feet tall Barringtonias last week,revealed why the trees were stunted in the first place.
When the 92 pits were dug up to add soil enrichments,nearly 24 pits falling in the C ward – from the Marine Drive flyover to the Taraporwala Aquarium – exposed cement ducts holding high tension cable wires belonging to Tata Power,the nominated members of the Tree Authority said. The ducts were found less than two feet below the surface,they added.
We had dug up to barely 2-ft depth when we noticed the cement ducts. How can plants grow,when there is a cemented obstacle? asked Niranjan Shetty,a nominated member of the Tree Authority. V S Dande,another Authority member and superintendent of garden,said: The authorities which developed the promenade may have paid little attention to details. The pits were probably built arbitrarily,without referring to any detailed map.
However,MMRDA chief Ratnakar Gaikwad,after detailed consultation with his chief engineers,stated that the tree pits were parallel to the ducts and not over them. Engineers who have worked on the project from the start have confirmed that not a single Barringtonia tree pit fouled with Tata Power duct. This duct is below the granite of the promenade from Mafatlal Bath to the Air India Junction, Gaikwad said. He added that according to their horticulture department,out of the 100 trees planted,only 20 were broken and not dead,which the BMC is replacing with taller trees. Though we have handed over the Marine Drive promenade to the BMC,we are regularly maintaining the horticulture part, he said.
MMRDA Chief Engineer S R Nandgirikar said,We will arrange for a site inspection on Monday. A number of trees at the promenade are growing well,but we will certainly check it out.
Nominated members of the Tree Authority are now trying to bring together the other members of the Authority,the C-Ward officials and the Tata Power representatives to review the city map,so that the tree pits can be relocated at a different spot.
Of the 92 trees proposed to be replaced in the A,C and D ward,the authority has managed to plant only about 32 trees so far – all of them in the A ward. While the work in the D ward is in progress,the 24 pits in the C ward will have to wait longer,till the decision to replace the pits comes,members said.
These are high tension cables and we wouldnt want to touch them. However,we can relocate the tree pits, said Dr Nilesh Baxi,another nominated member. However,he anticipated the work to be held up at least till August this year,considering that plans for relocation of pits would have to be drawn up.
For more than four years,the Marine Drive promenade has been deprived of the beauty of continuous row of trees. Under MMRDA plan of beautification,153 Coconut Palm trees were removed and later Barringtonia trees were planted. Unfortunately,90 to 100 of them did not grow beyond 2 feet. Now that the area is back in the BMCs purview,we are trying our best to restore the beauty of the promenade, Baxi said.