Not killed, trees dying naturally in Andheri, says BMC
NGO alleges Karnataka Public School destroyed trees on its premises, without permission, to construct new building
In the midst of a public outcry against the destruction of trees at Aarey, comes the case of Karnataka Public School, Andheri West, which has allegedly poisoned 30-odd trees on its premises to make way for construction of a new school building. An NGO, Shivtej Foundation first noticed the trees dying three months ago and brought it to the notice of BMC as well as MHADA officials on July 25. However, no action has been taken against the school yet.
Sumit Ashok Dhuri, president of the NGO, said, "At present, KPS school is constructing a new building. The school authority as well as the contractor have not obtained any permission from the Tree Authority and have chopped down some trees and pruned others without permission, which is punishable under the Maharashtra (Urban areas) preservation of Trees Act,1975. It is also suspected that they have poisoned the roots of 30 trees intentionally. There is clear evidence of merciless killing of trees."
Asbestos sheets cover the Karnataka Public School plot at Andheri West, with the dying trees poking through them. Pics/Satej Shinde
He added, "They have also poured concrete in the pilings very close to the tree roots and destroyed the root system of these trees, most of which are peepal, almond, ashoka, guava, tamarind, neem, drumstick, gooseberry and amla. These are decades-old trees." Dhuri told mid-day that in a bid to make their nefarious plan successful, "The school authorities, as well as the contractor first, built a boundary of asbestos sheets so that no one could see them destroying the trees."
He added, "They have installed CCTV cameras to keep their premises, spread over 20,000 sq ft, under electronic surveillance. They have also flashed two boards at the entrance saying 'Danger: construction site, unauthorised persons keep out' and 'Caution: Do not enter' to dissuade us entering the premises to collect evidence."
Branches of the dying trees peep over the boundary of the Karnataka Public School plot
He said construction vehicles and backhoe machines had killed a large tree in the path to the site. "We have written to the chief executive officer (CEO) of Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), Deputy Superintendent of Gardens, K/West of BMC and Assistant Engineer of K/West Garden Department to take stringent action against the school authority as well as the contractor, and also to put the construction activities on the premises on hold until the accused are sued, punished and fined as per the law. But our request has fallen on deaf ears," Dhuri said.
In response to Dhuri's complaint, the assistant superintendent of gardens, K/West Ward Yogendra Singh Kachhwa sent them a letter on August 7 saying, "This is to inform you that the site under reference was inspected by this office staff on July 25 and observed that trees under reference are not found damaged or killed on site. Trees are found partially dead/dead naturally. However, the authority concerned has instructed them to take utmost care of the drying trees to revive the partially dead trees". mid-day contacted Satish Karande, Junior Tree Officer (JTO) of the Garden Department, BMC, who visited the site to inspect, but he refused to comment.
Sumit Dhuri, with the dead trees to the left in pic
'Will register a case'
Ward officer Prashant Gaikwad said, "The excavation work and cement near the roots of the trees might have damaged the trees. We will register a case against the person responsible for causing the trees to die." When mid-day visited the site, we found huge trunks of trees abandoned inside the compound. Also, the chopped down trees had caused severe damage to the greenery inside the compound. When we inquired with the ward office, they informed us that the school authorities had not taken any permission for the chopping down of these trees. When we visited the school, the person concerned was not available for comment. "No one is available at present. I will convey your message to my boss," said Ajay Patayat, the security in-charge of the premises.
Age of the trees allegedly killed by the school
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