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Why are trees dying in Mumbai? MNC manager finds out

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The Accenture employee surveyed 611 trees across western suburbs on foot over two months, to come to the disturbing conclusion that half of them are dead or dying

This could, and should, put the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to shame. While city’s civic body has done nothing to save the dying rain trees lining some of the major roads in Mumbai over the past six to eight months, Kshitij Ashtekar, a senior manager at Accenture, has come to their rescue.

Dying Rain trees that line Link Road in Malad (West). Pic/Amit Jadhav
Dying Rain trees that line Link Road in Malad (West). Pic/Amit Jadhav

Ashtekar conducted an independent survey of the Rain trees at various arterial roads in the western suburbs, on foot. Ashtekar prepared a detailed report on the survey and presented it to senior BMC officials a few days ago, who then agreed to work on the measures suggested by him, to save the dying trees.

Ashtekar said, “I was very concerned about the state of the dying Rain trees, which provide the highest percentage of green cover to the city. I conducted the survey on weekends, examining 50-80 trees at a time. I mapped about 611 trees for four to five weeks in December and January, working only on weekends, as I work on weekdays.”

Ashtekar learnt that the trees growing on the side of concrete roads were dying because concrete was not allowing rainwater to seep in and reach their roots. “I also found that there was heavy infestation of pests like mealy bugs and amphids. Another factor is the heavy construction activity in Mumbai, with deep excavations.

Dying Rain trees that line Link Road in Malad (West). Pic/Amit Jadhav

Water pumped out of these construction sites, which contains cement concrete particles, is collected in the storm water drainage. At some paces the trees were dying because of fungal and bacterial infections. It is hard to pinpoint one reason, but normally it is a combination of these reasons playing out,” he added.

The study points out that Rain trees that are on open grounds are still doing well, unless infected. The survey has also revealed that 50 per cent of the trees he surveyed are infected and dying, or already dead. “This is very alarming, given that the rain trees provide the largest percentage of green cover in the city,” Ashtekar pointed out.

Goregaon MG Road has a huge Rain tree canopy. But now, it’s depressing to see the trees dying. Our lives are so closely linked to that of trees they breathe in the CO2 we breathe out and give us oxygen. It will be disaster to lose these 50-60-year-old-trees, which will need at least 50 years to be fully replaced. - Kshitij Ashtekar

Measures suggested for saving Rain trees
>> Injecting dying trees with fungicides and NPK shots to revive them
>> Stopping heavy pruning of infected trees 
>> Checking the possibility of spraying the trees with insecticide 
>> Digging open pits around trees 
>> Conducting tests of ground water tables, and quality of water (pH, pollutants etc) 
>> Planting more trees in open spaces 
>> Planting more native trees like Wadh, Pimpal, which seem to be surviving better than Rain trees 
>> Not planting a single species in clusters and lines, as in the Rain Tree Marg in Navi Mumbai 
>> Providing open pits and providing for rainwater seepage 
>> Using more scientific methods when pruning trees, using sterilised equipment

BMC speaks
Additional Municipal Commissioner SS Shinde, also in charge of the Gardens Department, said, “We have gone through the presentation on the survey. We have taken note of the suggestions made in the presentation and I have already instructed the concerned officials from the Garden department to see to it that the suggestions are followed, so that Rain trees can be saved.”

Locations of survey
Goregaon (West), Link Road Malad West, Andheri (West), DN Nagar.

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11 Comments

  • John Doe11-Feb-2014

    Thank you Shree Kshitij Ashtekar !

  • abc12311-Feb-2014

    Good guy Mr Ashtekar...and thanks Mid-Day for publishing this article..hopefully the ever-sleeping BMC and other such bodies would now open their winks and get down to some serious work.

  • Deepraj11-Feb-2014

    Nice work Kshitji, I hope there are more people inspired by this good cause and do similar activities and present to the authorities, to ensue attention is brought in those area's too.

  • Sandeep A11-Feb-2014

    Jago...jago......466/611 trees can still be saved which keeps some hopes alive. Hope authorities will take some proactive steps to save these and actively look into other similar cases in Mumbai.

  • Sunil Fernandes11-Feb-2014

    Growing up in Mumbai, these huge Rain trees with their large shade bearing canopies were all around though I never knew what they were called. Kshitij - thank you for caring and putting in your attention to dig into this. We as Mumbaiites should shrug off our " we have no time " apathy and work to do some thing about it. This is not just about the trees - If the pollution in the air and water in the city is killing the trees, it is doing us grave harm too.

  • PRAKASHC GIDWANI S E O 11-Feb-2014

    THE MOST MIS MANAGED DEPARTMENT IS TREE DEPT OF BMC..I HAVE LODGED A 18 TREE`S CUTTING AND BEHEADMENT COMPLAINT WITH KW WEST AMC/TREE OFFICER ON THE 5TH AUGUST..AFTER FOLLOW UP I COULD GET A COMPLAINT SUBMITTED BY BMC TO VERSOVA POLICE ST ON 12TH AUG 13.. WHICH I SUBMITTED IN PERSON..COPY I HAVE..AFTER GREAT EFFORTS PANCHNAMA WAS DONE ..BUT THE JUNIOR TREE OFFICER AVOIDS BEING PRESENT IN THE POLICE STATION TO LODGE A FIR..ALTHOUGH 39 COURT HAS APPROVED AND PERMITTED PROSECUTION OF THE SECRETARY

  • Tree Lover11-Feb-2014

    Good work Mr. Ashtekar - god bless you

  • Sandeep A11-Feb-2014

    Proud of what you are doing Kshitij. Let's all support this cause and bring back greenery back to Mumbai. I love aamchi mumbai.

  • Sandeep11-Feb-2014

    Kshitij - This is real analytics!! Hope this helps BMC to take some important decisions

  • Nalin Mistry11-Feb-2014

    While everybody is enjoying weekend Mr Kshitij took pain to survey, hope that his efforts are not wasted. Thanks MID_DAY.

  • Sheetal Joshi27-Feb-2014

    You work is very inspiring Kshitij. While we all read and watch the atrocities towards the environment, little is done at the ground level and help improve the situation. The data you collected is much insightful and sincerely hope BMC takes notice.

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