Mumbai: BMC's tree trimming will cause more collapses, say environmentalists

The civic body has gone on a chopping spree, trimming the branches of trees to prevent their collapse; but environmentalists claim this leaves the trees without proper balance or support, rendering them unstable

While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) may have good intentions behind their recent tree-trimming drive, environment experts say it will only end up causing more damage.

This tree on Ranade Road has nothing left of it but the trunk; (right) another tree on the same street has lost a major portion of its branches
This tree on Ranade Road has nothing left of it but the trunk; (right) another tree on the same street has lost a major portion of its branches

The civic body has been chopping the branches of trees across the city, in a bid to curb them from collapsing during heavy rains, but the environmentalists claimed the ‘unscientific’ method of doing so leaves the trees only more vulnerable to getting uprooted. Tree collapses have, in the past, taken lives and caused serious injuries as well.

The trimmed branches of a tree on B R Ambedkar Road, near Sion Hospital, have been dumped on the spot. Pic/Suresh KK
The trimmed branches of a tree on B R Ambedkar Road, near Sion Hospital, have been dumped on the spot. Pic/Suresh KK

After facing heavy flak for their inability to reduce such incidents, the civic body started trimming trees lining the arterial roads as a precautionary measure. However, this is being done in a manner most haphazard; environmentalists said the contractor responsible for the job is lopping off even the branches that posed no danger, in an overenthusiastic attempt to curtail or prevent any tree getting uprooted.

Trim-happy BMC
Anand Pendharkar, from the NGO SPROUTS, visited the L J Road stretch between Mahim Church and Shitladevi temple, and told mid-day that the trees on the south-bound stretch of the LJ Road have been trimmed without a proper plan.

Experts feel that chopping only the lower branches and leaving the top crown of the tree intact will damage the shape of the tree and render it unstable. Pic/Anand Pendharkar
Experts feel that chopping only the lower branches and leaving the top crown of the tree intact will damage the shape of the tree and render it unstable. Pic/Anand Pendharkar

mid-day also visited Gokhale and Ranade roads, and verified the same: green branches have been liberally cut in the name of trimming. On both the north-bound and south-bound stretches of Gokhale Road, the trimming work has been done shoddily.

On the north-bound stretch of Ranade Road, opposite Cosmos Bank, two full-grown trees, nearly 30 feet tall, have suffered at the hands of the workers who slashed away at their branches. One tree opposite the Kitte Bhandari Sabhagruha has no branches left; its trunk is all that remains. The scene continues as the road moves towards Shiv Sena Bhavan.

On LJ Road, from Shiv Sena Bhavan junction to Mahim Church, more than 20 trees have been meted out the same treatment. So poor is the job that many of the trees may not even grow back. On the south-bound stretch of L J Road, between Mahim Church and Shitladevi temple, the BMC has dumped the trimmed branches right on the footpath.

Expert speak
Gardeners employed by the BMC used to earlier trim the branches of trees that posed a hazard during monsoon and contractors would then clear the chopped branches. For the past couple of years, the civic body has been outsourcing even the trimming work to contractors who, in a rush to complete the job, make a mess of it.

Speaking to mid-day, Pendharkar, from SPROUTS, said, “Lopping the lower branches of trees and leaving only the top crown is unscientific and will lead to many trees succumbing to wind-related falling due to poor support and damage to their natural shape. When the dense canopy is trimmed, the wind tends to gain force and cause more damage. This chopping is going to prove more hazardous.”

Stalin Dayanand, from the NGO Vanashakti, minced no words, adding, “This is wilful killing or murder of the trees. Contractors with zero knowledge of trees and their needs, directed by the environment-illiterate officers of the BMC, have successfully executed the job of killing Mumbai’s trees. The Tree Authority and Garden department are mere paper tigers. BMC should ideally have experts, but the persons involved in this exercise don’t even have high school-level knowledge of trees.”

According to Dayanand, the trees in Mumbai are already vulnerable to collapse since their roots are surrounded by concrete and are starved for water. He said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the BMC to clear the concrete surrounding the trees, lay red soil and water the trees regularly. “Trees across Mumbai are standing in less than a metre of soil.

Instead of following the orders of the NGT, they (BMC) have chosen the easy way out to kill the trees, so that the tedious work of clearing concrete and putting red soil can be avoided.” The experts also asserted that the BMC should complete the trimming work well before the rains set in.

 

Tree collapse deaths
Three people have died and nine have been injured this year after trees fell on them. The BMC claims they have trimmed nearly 60,000 trees in the city, before the monsoon.

>> Manjay Mandal (30) was travelling in a rickshaw on June 19 when a tree fell on the vehicle. He died on the spot.

>> Ericulam, a 25-year-old man, died after a tree fell on him at Agar Bazar, Prabhadevi on June 22.

>> Meena Ansari (40) a resident of Agripada, died when a tree near her shanty collapsed on her on June 19. While the families of the deceased are entitled to a compensation of Rs 1 lakh, the three victims’ families have not yet received any and the BMC claims it is being processed.

BMC speak
Medha Gogate, assistant superintendent, BMC Garden department, said, “We have a junior tree officer in every ward, who is also an expert in the field of horticulture. He visits the area before the tree is trimmed. Based on his findings, the decision of trimming the trees is taken.”

595
Number of trees that have fallen this year since June 1, according to the BMC Tree department

- Inputs by Tanvi Deshpande

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