Mumbai: Green warriors to give Aarey saplings some TLC

Apr 20, 2016, 07:13 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

The plan is to double the tree cover in 5-10 years; BMC officials undertaking the first-ever tree census in Aarey say the figure may cross 5 lakh

The Aarey Milk Colony’s green cover is set to get some tender, loving care. Save Aarey, a citizens’ group fighting the plan to cut trees to make way for a Metro rail car shed in the area, chalking out an initiative to double the number of trees in the next five to 10 years.

It will not only plant more saplings, beginning next month, but will also regularly monitor and inspect their growth to ensure that they survive and become sturdy trees.

The Aarey tree census work is expected to be complete in two months
The Aarey tree census work is expected to be complete in two months

Several plantation initiatives have fizzled out in the past simply because the NGOs, citizens’ groups and corporate houses involved have failed to check up on saplings or keep a record of them.

Environmentalist Ratnakar S points out that saplings need a lot of care. “Last year, I had seen that saplings had been planted near Durga Nagar, after some huts were razed. But when I visited the spot a week ago, I saw that the huts were back and the saplings were nowhere to be seen.”

Regardless of the rather wieldy name of its initiative — Planting and Also Taking Care Project, Save Aarey plans to plan 800 indigenous saplings, including those of banyan and neem, this year. “Our focus will not only be on planting saplings, but also on taking care of them,” says Manish Gadia from the group.

Aarey CEO Gajanan Raut says his personnel will cooperate with citizens in the project. “We have always supported and will continue to support initiatives for the protection of the environment and the wildlife in Aarey.”

3 lakh and counting...
Meanwhile, the ongoing first-ever tree census inside the Aarey Milk Colony, undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, has already crossed the 3-lakh mark. Officials expect the figure to cross 5 lakh.

A BMC official says 75% of the 16-sqkm area has been covered. “We have been conducting the tree census for the last six to seven months and expect the work to be completed in another two months.”

Another official confirms that the tree count has crossed 3 lakh. “We might touch 5 lakh or more. There are a variety of trees that we found in Aarey. There is an urgent need to protect the existing tree cover.”

Census workers are tagging each tree through GPS and GIS, marking their location on Google Earth.

The first of many
This is the BMC’s first ever tree census in Aarey Milk Colony, covering 16 sqkm. The area has some good tree cover and even some dense forested patches. The area comes under Dairy Development Corporation of the state government. Since the BMC did not have any administrative jurisdiction over this, no census could be conducted by it in the past.

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