Mumbai: Coastal Road trees toll goes up to near 1000

Updated: May 13, 2019, 09:50 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

While project documents said only a total of 500 trees will be cut, information obtained via RTI shows that permissions have already been given to chop 937 trees between Colaba and Worli

Mumbai: Coastal Road trees toll goes up to near 1000
The Coastal Road work that has begun behind Priyadarshini Park. Pic/Ashish Raje

More trees are likely to fall to the already contentious Coastal Road. Furious activists have found out that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has tweaked its initial plans, making this necessary. They say the number of trees likely to be affected in this project will go beyond the civic body's earlier claim of 500, and could now even touch 1,000.

The ambitious coastal road project's first phase from Marine Drive to Worli at a cost of R12,000 crore, for which reclamation has already started, has become an eyesore for locals, who have been opposing the BMC's every move. The citizens have even approached the high court to demand a stay, but the Supreme Court recently allowed the work to resume.

Also read: Where trees still shade the 'garden suburb'

According to the Right to Information report received by environmental activist Zoru Bhathena, a proposal where 324-odd trees would be affected for the Coastal Road project has reached the tree department of the BMC from where it will be going to the Tree Authority for approval. Another proposal where 200-odd trees will be affected at Marine Drive where the Coastal Road tunnel's entry and exit will be constructed has been sent to the Tree department. This number itself has crossed the earlier considered 500-mark, said Bhathena.

He said, "The permission proposals that were sent had clearly mentioned that only if unavoidable would trees be affected. While the Marine Drive trees to be affected fall under the construction of tunnels, we do not understand the destruction at Worli Sea Face promenade. Added to that, the garden, which has no connection to the Coastal Road and is on the north of the exit of Bandra Worli Sea Link, will also lose 100 trees. The administration had said only if unavoidable, but now the figure will reach 1,000, as the 250-odd trees of Tata Garden and 100-odd trees near Haji Ali are yet to be proposed for axing."

Further, activists are angry at the environmental cost-benefit analysis, where trees have been valued at market price in terms of the timber cost, and there is no mention of what mangroves or trees contribute to the environment. While this is the standard practice for evaluation, the value of R2,500 for each tree has upset activists and residents.

Also read: Mumbai: Trees and plants in Matunga WR colony face concrete threat

Activist Hussain Indorewala said, "There is clearly an undervaluation of the ecology and environment and doesn't have the mention of how much oxygen a tree can give or how mangroves can control a flood situation. The way the environmental assessment is done needs to be changed and just the cost of wood if sold in the open market or the livelihood if affected from the loss of vegetation cannot be parameters to judge."

When mid-day tried to reach chief engineer Mohan Machiwala, he was available for comment. The then environment minister Sudhir Mungantiwar had claimed that the socio-economic cost of a healthy tree with respect to its Oxygen producing capacity is around R23.72 lakh per year, but with this evaluation, the BMC has forgotten its O2 producing capacity, pointed out activists. "The estimated cost is R12. 5 lakh according to the number of trees to be affected, but if we use the forest minster's numbers, of R23lakh per tree, the true 'cost' is R115 crore," Indorewala said.

Rs 2,500
Compensation per tree cut, which has angered activists

500
Max no. of trees that BMC's earlier proposal said would be affected

Also read: Mumbai: Activist says BMC root cause of danger to 34 trees at Kandivli

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