4,146 trees to face the axe

Three municipal bodies -- BMC, PMC and NMMC -- are in the process of sanctioning a proposal to chop trees along the Sion-Panvel highway; only NMMC has made arrangements for their replacement so far

The biggest casualties falling along the paved roads to development are trees. In a development that is sure to shock and outrage tree huggers, the felling of over 4,000 trees has been sanctioned to make way for a wider Sion-Panvel highway. However, plans for the transplantation of only 10 per cent of these trees has been announced, while the days are numbered for the remaining 90 per cent, which will be lopped off over the next two years.

The axe effect: Contractors have promised to replace the trees that
they chop, but they can only do so after two years, once the project is

The highway project is being steered by the Public Works Department (PWD), which has awarded contracts worth Rs 1,220 crore for the widening and concretisation of the 23-km long highway, to two infrastructural firms -- IVRCL and KIPL. The bodies have together identified a total of 4,146 trees along the highway, which have to be sacrificed for its widening.

Different parts of the Sion-Panvel highway fall under the jurisdiction of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and Panvel Municipal Corporation (PMC) respectively.

Of these, NMMC has sealed the deal for the felling of 1,873 trees within its precincts, seeking the transplantation of only 475. It has, however, also instructed the contractors to plant trees in lieu of the ones cut down.

The PMC, on the other hand, had no qualms permitting the IVRCL to slay 888 trees, and has not yet passed any injunction to the contractor to transplant them or plant new trees in their stead.

The BMC is expected to sanction the proposal for the felling of 1,385 trees soon, revealed an IVRCL official.

Cut and plant
Rajendra Jawanjal, executive engineer of PWD said, "We have identified the trees which need to be felled for the widening of the Sion-Panvel highway. The contractor is supposed to cut the trees, relocate the ones that they can, and plant new trees for the ones that can't be replanted. The trees will be axed over the next two years, as work proceeds. Transplantation will be done simultaneously."

On the bright side, the NMMC has asked its contractors to deposit Rs 1,000 for every tree that it mows down, so as to ensure that they take pains of transplanting as many trees as possible, and plant new ones to supplant the ones it chops.

Chandrakant Tayde, administrative officer of the Horticulture Department at NMMC, said, "The felling of 1,873 trees is necessary for the road widening project. However, we have asked the contractors to deposit Rs 18.73 lakh as a deposit, before they chop the 1,873 trees. If the contractors fail to replace the trees they chop, we will seize this deposit."

Contractors insisted that they would plant a greater number of trees than the ones they chop, though the plantation will mostly have to wait till the completion of the widening work.

"We have got 60 metres of space for the highway, of which 45 meters will be used for widening. We will transplant the existing trees or plant new trees in the open space along the highway. We will try to plant more trees than is mandatory. However, newly planted trees are likely to be damaged by ongoing construction work, so we will be planting a majority of the trees after completion of the work," said an IVRCL official.

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