Mumbai: Tree census done, but BMC not revealing what it found

Updated: Aug 26, 2019, 07:35 IST | Prajakta Kasale |

But as the BMC's garden department is busy publishing notices on objections/suggestions from the public before giving permission to cut trees, nothing has been published on the GPS-based tree census yet

Though the tree census was started in 2014, a detailed report has never been published
Though the tree census was started in 2014, a detailed report has never been published

Just how serious the civic body is about preserving the city's green cover is evident from the status of its Tree Census. Five-and-a-half years since the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) conducted a tree census — which would tell the total number of trees or of a particular species in a particular area and which will ultimately help preserve the city's tree cover — the report is yet to be published.

The civic body had started counting trees with a GPS (Global Positioning System) tag from February 10, 2014 and was supposed to complete it in a year. As per the announcement, the civic body was to publish the location of each tree along with its species name. But as the BMC's garden department is busy publishing notices on objections/suggestions from the public before giving permission to cut trees, nothing has been published on the GPS-based tree census yet.

Census mandatory

According to the Maharashtra Protection and Preservation of Trees Act 1975, a census of all trees in the jurisdiction of the civic body is mandatory every five years. The BMC's last tree census was done in 2008 and the next one was started in February 2014 in the presence of the additional municipal commissioner V R S Shreenivas.

The work was given to SAAR IT resources, a Nagpur based IT firm. The total cost of the census was R2.5 crore. The report was supposed to be available within a year on the website with the data of location, species, height, girth, age and condition of the trees. But, as is wont, the survey was hit by malfunctioning GIS mapping machines, lack of basic maps, housing societies and private institutes refusing permission to the team to check the trees and so on, said a BMC officer.

Also Read: Tree Authority asks BMC officials to file FIR against MMRCL

Interestingly, the officer said the counting was completed in 2017 and ward-wise tree numbers were first published in the edition of BMC's Environment Status Report 2016-17. But, nothing other than these ward-wise numbers have been published. Meanwhile, BMC allows the uprooting of an average 5,000 trees per month for various infrastructure works. In 2019 alone, the BMC published notices of more than 20,000 trees to be sacrificed for infra works.

Jitendra Pardeshi, superintendent of the Garden department was unavailable even after several calls and messages. "BMC does not want to divulge the information on the trees as people will oppose the excessive tree cutting. They are just giving some rough numbers despite admitting to the real number in the high court," said D Stalin, environmentalist. "BMC is hiding information. Besides, as per the announcement, the BMC was supposed to give unique identification numbers to every tree. But, even now the tree cutting proposal doesn't have numbers and it is not known how many trees have been cut illegally," said Zoru Bathena, activist.

Also Read: Coastal Road: Rs 594 crore spent on just 6.25 per cent work

Rs 2.5cr
Cost of 2014 tree census

B and C wards have very few trees

As per the information published in the Environment Status Report on the basis of the census data, there were 31.06 lakh trees in the city. In the. 2017-18 report, the number changed to 29.75 lakh. The 2018-19 report is yet to be published. As per the census, there are 29,75,283 trees, excluding the four lakh trees in Aarey. B and C wards comprising Dongri, Bhendi Bazar, Girgaon and Charni Road have fewer trees, while Malabar Hill has a large number. N (Ghatkopar), S (Bhandup), P north (Goregaon), K East (Andheri East, Vile Parle East) have a large number of trees.

Also Read: GMLR project: BMC to purchase compensatory plot for forest department

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