BMC's powers trimmed; soon, any agency can cut trees sans civic nod

Aug 14, 2017, 09:15 IST | Laxman Singh

Citizens protest a tree being chopped down at Churchgate for the Metro. Pics/Shadab Khan
Citizens protest a tree being chopped down at Churchgate for the Metro. Pics/Shadab Khan

The state government is considering a change in the laws to allow individual agencies to cut trees without requiring the permission of the central Tree Authority, highly-placed officials from three different departments have told mid-day.

State government officials are of the opinion that trenchant opposition by members of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's Tree Authority to tree-cutting proposals has delayed several development projects, including the Metro Rail.

Also read - Mumbai: Chembur MLA proposes 20-feet vertical limit for trees

A pile of logs is all that will eventually remain of the trees across the length and breadth of Mumbai. This pile is at Churchgate. File pic
A pile of logs is all that will eventually remain of the trees across the length and breadth of Mumbai. This pile is at Churchgate. File pic

The sources said the state wants to amend the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, to allow various planning agencies to cut trees that stand on land they own to cut them without the Tree Authority's permission.

Unshackling development
Under the amended law, an agency like the MMRCL will not need the Tree Authority's permission to cut the green cover in land notified for the Metro project.

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As per the city's Development Plan, 435 square kilometres of land fall under the BMC, while special planning agencies like Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), and Slum Rehabilitation Agency (SRA) 41.69 square kilometers of land.

The Mumbai Port Trust owns a further 7.5 square kilometres.

Other agencies that control land in the city include the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), and the state Public Works Department (PWD).

There is no statistic on the number of trees on these land parcels. The Tree Authority, which was constituted to curb discriminate and excessive hacking of green cover in the city, is headed by the municipal commissioner and has as members corporators from all parties and environmental activists.

To protect and defend
When asked about the move, municipal commissioner and Tree Authority chief, Ajoy Mehta, said he is not aware of it.

"I am not aware of any such change," he said. "If it is happening, then the Tree Prevention and Preservation Act will have to be amended."

Also read: BMC didn't trim tree that collapsed, disrupting train services despite Western Railway's intimation

However, other senior officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to mid-day that such a plan was afoot.

"The last few years have seen severe opposition against tree cutting proposals due to political reasons," said a senior official from the civic body. "Right now, bickering between the Shiv Sena and the BJP has led to a lot of rejections.

Even the proposal to cut trees for the Metro faced a lot of opposition from the Sena. The state government has asked us to give data of trees in the city. There are several areas where the BMC is not the planning authority."

Tree Authority member and Shiv Sena group leader in the BMC Yashvant Jadhav said his party will oppose the amendment if it goes forward.

"We have not been informed about such changes as of now. But if it happens, we will surely oppose the move."

435
Land (in sq km) under BMC control

41.69
Land (in sq km) under other agencies' control


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