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8 trees 'disappear' after hospital comes up on plot at Mumbai Central

While giving a go-ahead to build the Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central, BMC had asked the developer to retain nine trees on the land; today, only one is seen

When the Wockhardt Group planned to develop a super-speciality hospital in the place where the Adams Wylie Memorial Hospital stood in Mumbai Central, it was given a go-ahead by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) provided the developer retained nine trees on the plot.

The hospital being built by Wockhardt group is opposite the civic-run Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central. (Below) The area in the compound of the new hospital where one of the eight missing trees should’ve been standing. Pics/Emmanual Karbhari
The hospital being built by Wockhardt group is opposite the civic-run Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central. (Below) The area in the compound of the new hospital where one of the eight missing trees should’ve been standing. Pics/Emmanual Karbhari

Today, however, while a tall, intimidating structure greets citizens, a lone tree remains on the plot the other eight have disappeared.

In 2006, the Gardens and Trees department of the BMC issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the group (a copy of which is with mid-day) to proceed with constructing their hospital on the plot admeasuring approximately 3,587 square metres situated opposite Nair Hospital on Dr Anandrao Nair Road.

Yet, in March this year, when the group applied for a fresh NOC so they could get an occupation certificate, the BMC issued a document that mentioned only one existing tree.

The missing trees
We set about to locate the ‘missing’ trees, and when we asked the Superintendent of the Gardens department, Vijay Hire, about the case, he said, “There has been a violation on this plot and we have registered an FIR on two occasions.” When asked to furnish details of the FIR, he said he couldn’t remember and directed us to the Junior Tree Officer Santosh Shetty.

Shetty neither answered phone calls nor replied to messages. He wasn’t in office when we went there. When Hire was informed of his subordinate’s unavailability, he told us Shetty’s mother was unwell and perhaps that’s why he was unreachable.

On Thursday, when we went to Shetty’s office, we were told that he had gone for a site inspection. On being prodded further, Hire claimed that the NOC had been issued under pressure from the mayor and municipal commissioner. Mayor Sunil Prabhu and Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte didn’t answer phone calls or respond to messages.

Apprised of situation
Immediately after the NOC was issued to the hospital, the BMC’s Tree Authority, a committee of corporators and nominated members formed for welfare of trees, spun into action.

Niranjan Shetty, a member of the body, wrote to the municipal commissioner, the chairman of the Authority, bringing to his attention that the developer had been granted an NOC on the condition that he preserves the nine trees on the land.

Despite this, eight trees seem to have been felled without prior permission from the concerned authority, he mentioned in the letter, which elicited no response. Shetty further alleged that nobody from the Gardens and Trees department made site visits to verify the facts.

As per the letter by the architect for the hospital, they were going to plant new 27 trees and retain nine trees. The building plan also shows the nine trees inside the compound, before construction had even begun.

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