Is the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) transplanting dead trees in the name of transplantation? At a recent visit to the Aarey Milk Colony, mid-day found that nearly 10 trees, of the batch of trees being transplanted from the area where the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) Chunabhatti connector is to come up, were dead.
There was no official supervising the transplantation process nor was anybody recording a video of the procedure, as is required by the rules
There was also no officer on the spot to ensure right procedure was being followed, and when this reporter tried recording the work on camera, he was stopped from doing so. On the evening of Saturday, July 11, mid-day visited Aarey Milk Colony and saw that a batch of trees was being transplanted. Transplantation refers to the process of uprooting a tree from a spot and planting it elsewhere.
These trees were in the way of the proposed BKC-Chunabhatti connector, claims MMRDA
A few among this batch had green leaves and were alive, but 8-10 of the trees appeared to be completely dead; most had nearly no branches and none of them had any leaves on them. When this reporter began taking pictures and videos of the ongoing work, a worker told us not to do so.
We went ahead nonetheless and saw that there was no official supervising the process to ensure the workers follow proper scientific procedure. Pits had been dug up and it was left to the workers to do what they wanted and most seemed to be clueless.
The workers carried on, erecting the 10-12-foot-long barks into the pits and simply filling the pit with mud. When asked why the trees seemed dead, one of the workers replied, “They are not dead. We will soon water the trees and sprinkle some powder so that the leaves start to grow.”
According to the workers, there was an official present on the spot but he had left. “Officers do not come every day. We have been asked to record a video of our work. A CD of the same will be submitted to the relevant authorities,” said one of the labourers on the spot. Nobody seemed bothered enough to even capture this video evidence.
The workers told mid-day that the trees had been brought in from near Bandra-Kurla Complex. Another labourer put us in touch with his boss, who tried bribing us when we asked him some more pointed questions.
An MMRDA official, requesting anonymity, confirmed that these trees are the ones removed because they were in the way of the alignment of MMRDA’s BKC-Chunabhatti Connector project and that all the necessary permissions had been taken for doing so.
mid-day has reported in the past that transplantation has failed in the city. In a front-page report on June 3, this paper had also highlighted that 20 of the 35 trees that were transplanted to Aarey Milk Colony were on the verge of death.
Environmentalists have, time and again, underscored the fact that the survival rates of transplanted trees are abysmal and strict vigilance and care is required to ensure the trees live on in their new home.
Yatin Sakhalkar, executive engineer, MMRDA, said, “There are some trees that are being transplanted at Aarey and these trees have been removed from the alignment of the BKC-Chunabhatti connector.”
When told that dead trees are being transplanted at the spot, he said, “I will have to check the proposal before making any statement about the trees and the number of trees being transplanted.”
Gajanan Raut, CEO, Aarey Milk Colony, said, “It is true that we suggested them the space where these trees could be transplanted, but the permission for transplantation comes from the BMC Tree authority.
If at all, dead trees are being transplanted, I will look into the matter and immediately ask the concerned officer to stop the transplantation process.”