Updated: May 27, 2021 1:31:33 am
The loss of green cover in Mumbai following Cyclone Tauktae has again brought to attention the long-standing issue of concretisation around tree bases across the city.
Vanashakti, an environment group, has written to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) highlighting the concretisation around tree bases in the heritage area of Ballard Estate, and pointing out that several of the trees have broken out and are tilting, putting them at greater risk during the upcoming monsoon.
According to records by Vanashakti, there are at least 500 such trees in Mumbai city and suburbs in need of urgent remedial measures. “In a mad race to concretise the roads we have killed the trees. Depriving them of soil, nutrients and anchorage is not conservation of urban trees. This monsoon we predict the loss of another 500 trees, if remedial measures are not taken,” read the group’s letter to the BMC.
A 2014 survey of 1965 “Rain Trees” by Vanashakti had found up to 4-5ft of concrete, tar and other construction material surrounding over half of the trees’ base without much soil. The network of underground cables, and lack of water percolation into the soil because of concretisation around the tree bases is weakening the trees, leading to tree fall during heavy rain, especially on footpaths. Around 308 trees out of the 812 that got uprooted between May 16 and 18 were on the roadside –on sidewalks and footpaths.
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Vanashakti had filed a PIL with the National Green Tribunal in 2015. In response to the petition, the NGT had directed the BMC to remove concrete within a radius of one metre around trunks of trees and ensure that no construction or repair work is done in that space. In 2019, BMC had re-issued the order to the road contractors and vigilance department to follow the order.
Meanwhile, ahead of the monsoon, the BMC has appealed to citizen to ensure scientific pruning of trees so that there is no loss of life or property. It also said that citizens can obtain permission for the pruning of trees either on the BMC website or on the mobile app “MCGM 24 x 7”.
BMC said that while trees on roads are pruned by the civic authority, the onus of pruning those in private premises lies on the owner or user. The owner/user have to pay the fee for tree trimming to the contractor. The fee is calculated based on the type of the tree, its height, width of the trunk among others. While private property owners are supposed to report dead trees or apply for pruning, the BMC’s garden department also sticks caution notices around trees in such properties that are found to be tilting dangerously towards the road.
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