CONTRACTORS WILL be held responsible in the event of death, injury or damage to property caused by falling of trees or branches, according to special clauses added by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the fresh tenders issued for awarding contracts for protection and maintenance of trees in 24 wards of the city.
In the light of recent allegations that some contractors were being favoured over others for the job, the civic body had issued fresh tenders for awarding the same contracts.
The special clauses state that the appointed agency will take precautions to avoid any tree epidemic and if any untoward incident occurs due to falling of trees or branches, the agency will personally be held responsible. The agency will face police action or will have to compensate victims or those affected by such incidents.
The BMC has proposed to spend Rs 116 crore on trimming and removing dead trees over the next three years. It will appoint a contractor for each of the 24 wards.
The BMC undertakes trimming of trees and removal of dead and dangerous trees and their disposal every year before the monsoon.
According to the civic body, last monsoon, seven people died and 20 were injured in incidents caused by falling of trees or branches. More than 1,600 branches and trees fell over that period.
According to senior civic officials, this is the first time that the BMC has incorporated such clauses with the idea of ensuring proper trimming and removal of dead and danger-ous trees to avoid untoward incidents.
Deputy Municipal Commissioner (gardens) Dr Kishor Kshirsagar told The Indian Express, “We have proposed such a clause to ensure that trees are properly trimmed and dangerous trees or branches are removed, so that during monsoon or in any other season, we can curb falling of trees and branches to avoid injuries or death. If we fix responsibility, contractors will do their jobs better. We have also proposed penalties in case we find that the agency is not doing a standard job.”
Another official from the gardens department said the special clause stated that contractors will get a warning if they violated terms and conditions twice. They could also be blacklisted in case of a third violation, the official added.
The appointed agency will be responsible for detecting dead and dangerous trees along with specifying why the tree was being pronounced dead or dangerous.
The official further said, “In case of an untoward incident, the contractor will be held responsible if affected persons lodge an FIR or seek police action in any way.”
The municipal commissioner, Ajoy Mehta, had to intervene after Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu alleged that there were malpractices in the current contracts. Mehta scrapped these contracts and re-issued the tenders.
However, activists said the BMC was shunning responsibility by putting such clauses in their tenders. “This is an attempt to shun responsibility. According to the law, the Tree Authority maintains trees and the civic body cannot pass on the responsibility to contractors. The Tree Authority is supposed to monitor the health of trees,” said Zoru Bhathena, an environmental activist.