Rain trees in Mumbai being killed by poison, say activists
Tree lovers in the city are alleging that rain trees are being systematically killed, so that they can be used for wood. Kshitij Ashtekar, a senior manager at Accenture, had conducted a survey of 611 rain trees in the city, and he determined that more than half of them were dying or were dead.
Ashtekar noticed that a rain tree near Kach Pada bus stop on Link Road, Malad (West) had lost all its leaves within 2-3 days and started dying. He alleges it was pumped with a chemical poison. Pic/Sameer Markande
While fungal and pest infections were thought to be the main reasons, Ashtekar’s recent observations have led him to believe that there is an effort to finish the trees off. Ashtekar had earlier surveyed trees on arterial roads in the western suburbs (see box).
During a recent observatory trip on Saturday, he noticed that a hole had been drilled into the tree next to Kach Pada bus stop on Link Road, Malad (West). A chemical had been injected into the tree through the hole.
He immediately brought it to the notice of the gardens department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and asked them to take immediate action. However, Ashtekar was asked to file an FIR himself. He, along with environment activist Rishi Agarwal, lodged the FIR at Bangur Nagar police station
'Killed for wood'
Ashtekar alleged the hole was drilled 2-3 days ago, as the hole and the chemical inside were fresh. He says the tree was completely green before that. “The BMC should’ve lodged the FIR, but we were asked to do so.
There are many reasons why trees are dying; market price of wood is huge, and this tree has the thickest circumference compared to the others remaining on the road. This is a huge threat to trees in the city,” he stated. Though this was the first such tree he noticed, the engineer felt the same mechanism could be be employed for other trees as well.
“This is not a random person doing it. Beyond doubt, this is a well-coordinated activity, which might have many reasons to it. Thankfully when we approached Bangur Nagar Link Road police station, they were helpful. They got into action and got the panchnama done, too. This requires a thorough investigation,” said Rishi Agarwal.
The BMC had agreed to implement suggestions given by the engineer to help save the trees. One of them was to dig pits around the trees to help them get enough water. Authorities had assured that the pits would be watered regularly and sprayed with insecticides to prevent fungal and pest growth. D K Ghule, deputy garden superintendent, Zone IV, said, “We have made pits in Dadar and Sion areas. However, I am not aware of this case. I will have to check with the ward.”
Rain tree survey
Ashtekar had carried out a survey of 611 rain trees in lining roads in Goregaon (West), Link Road in Malad (West), Andheri (West) and D N Nagar, in December-January 2013. More than half of them were dead or dying.