Trees hacked illegally to make a hoarding visible

RTI response to query on hacked trees at Juhu aerodrome states no permission was given to chop trees; BMC says it was done to bring a hoarding in clear vision of passers-by, but refuses to investigate the matter

Has anyone noticed that there have been lesser trees on the peripheries of Juhu aerodrome along SV Road in Santacruz? A Bandra resident and activist, who did, alleges that trees on the Pawan Hans premises were hacked in March-April without the necessary sanctions and the BMC hasn't looked into the matter. Further, a letter from the civic body speculates that the trees were chopped near the boundary wall to make an advertising hoarding visible, a view ensconced by an assistant municipal commissioner. 

When Aftab Siddiqui, president of 33rd Road ALM of Khar West observed that trees on the Pawan Hans premises seemed to be thinning in numbers, she inquired of the BMC if they had given any permission for the same.

"I inquired a lot but no one responded, so I decided to file an RTI application," said Siddiqui. On July 14, she received a reply from the Airport Authority of India (AAI) that no permission was given for cutting trees to MMRDA. "The letter also stated that there were no copies from the ministry to corroborate that any kind of permission was given. The environment ministry's answer stated that no permission was given," said Siddiqui.

Blame game
When Siddiqui approached the BMC with her findings, civic officials inspected the site and found trees had been hacked outside the premises. A tree official from the K-West Ward said, "There were no trees or bushes cut inside the premises but on the outside. We had submitted a report to the ward officer. A complaint was lodged with the Santacruz police station, but they have not done anything yet."

In a letter to the police station dated July 5, the K West ward officer mentioned that a ber tree was chopped to a height of 3 feet and a bhendi tree had been snipped close to the ground. Also, two Peltophoram and two Gulmohar trees were trimmed drastically.

For ad impact
The letter further said that it is suspected the trees were purposely cut to clear the vision of a hoarding (bearing licence no K W-72) situated on the premises of Pawan Hans (AAI), and that the police should investigate the matter by taking action against the defaulters under Section 8(21) of Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975.

Assistant Municipal Commissioner of K-West Ward Ramesh Pawar said, "There were two trees cut within the premises of Pawan Hans for which AAI had taken the requisite permission from the tree authority. But the ones on the road were hacked illegally. And it seems like those who have done it wanted to clear the view as trees were obstructing their advertisement. We will follow up on the case."

But Siddiqui is far from satisfied. She alleges that the BMC is not investigating inside the premises and delaying action. "When the letters from AAI and environment ministry clearly state that no permission was given, why is the BMC not investigating inside the premises?" 

The other side
Officials from Pawan Hans, Santacruz (AAI) could not be reached despite several attempts.

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