BMC has proposed that the municipal commissioner be able to circumvent the Tree Authority committee to permit felling of up to 25 trees, up from the current nine
The BMC’s proposal to circumvent the Tree Authority and give the municipal commissioner greater powers to allow the cutting of trees for development is unlikely to get the green signal from corporators. However, the objection is not entirely based on concerns for the environment — the Sena fears that this move will dilute coporators’ powers.
The municipal commissioner currently has the power to permit the felling of up to nine trees, which the new BMC building proposal manual hopes will be upped to 25. File pic
So far, the municipal commissioner had the power to permit up to nine trees to be cut without the permission of the Tree Authority. However, the civic body’s new building proposal manual — unveiled by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday — increases this number to 25 trees.
The BMC recently made headlines when the new manual, released in an effort to reduce the red tape surrounding development projects. It brought down the number of approvals required for buildings from 119 to 58, which means the time required for getting sanctions could be reduced from about a year to just two months.
However, this has not gone down well with corporators.
In Tuesday's standing committee meeting, Sena corporator Trushna Vishwasrao raised a point of order, stating that corporators’ powers were being downsized. She was backed by standing committee chairman Yashodhar Phanse and education committee chairperson Ritu Tawde.
“The very fact that we were not consulted while taking this decision reflects how corporators are being ignored in decision making. Besides, this proposal goes one step ahead in cutting us out of the process. We are not against development, but corporators’ powers can’t be dissolved like this,” Vishwasrao said.
The BJP leader in the BMC, Manoj Kotak, alleged that the Sena was only crying foul because the manual was unveiled by CM Fadnavis. “Maharashtra has tremendous economic growth; several important infrastructure projects are going on. We should not create a fuss and stall development. Why didn’t the Sena object to the proposal earlier? Only after our CM inaugurated the booklet did they realise the need to oppose,” he said.
However, education committee chief and BJP corporator Tawde also criticized the move, saying that while citizens are not allowed to cut trees where necessary, in other cases, trees are allowed to be cut rampantly in the name of development.
MNS corporator Sandip Deshpande staged a walkout over the environmental threat posed by this proposal. He said, “My objection is not to the way the proposal was brought in but to the proposal itself. Why should the municipal commissioner have the supreme authority? Why not rope in local corporators who take a more considered call on whether the trees need to be cut or not?”
This plan is yet to be ratified by the Tree Authority, which will discuss it today. If passed by a majority, it will come into effect. However, the Sena has pledged to oppose it.