Plantation versus a Pandemic: Colaba Corporator and MLA raise concern

Updated: Jul 16, 2020, 08:01 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Corporator and MLA from Colaba raise concern against proposed forest plantation project for 61 plots in city; say state funds can be put to more urgent use in these times

Trees being planted in Colaba for a Miyawaki forest
Trees being planted in Colaba for a Miyawaki forest

The Narwekars, Rahul, MLA from the Colaba constituency and sister-in-law Harshita, corporator, Colaba, have raised concerns about what they term as "wasteful spending" by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Miyawaki plantations in the times of the COVID-19 crisis.

Miyawaki is a technique to grow forests, invented by a Japanese botanist, Akira Miyawaki. In this approach, dozens of native species are planted very close together. This ensures that plants receive sunlight only from the top and grow upwards and not sideways. It is an attempt to grow a forest in a short time.

Community spirit
The Narwekars in their separate correspondence, dated July 11 to the BMC, have raised several points with reference to the proposed Miyawaki plantations on 61 plots across the Eastern and Western suburbs. Last year, the civic authorities had earmarked these 61 plots across the city for Miyawaki plantations. They had then invited tenders for the same, Harshita stressed, "I am not against greening of the city, this is in fact, a necessity and entirely laudable, but can we justify spending R35 crore at this time, when we have a pandemic, for this project? The priorities seem to be askew."

A full grown Miyawaki plantation in Colaba
A full grown Miyawaki plantation in Colaba

The corporator pointed out to a Miyawaki project undertaken a year ago, at a park called Colaba Woods in Cuffe Parade. "That was an initiative which we led, and the money was raised through the community, which got involved in the project. It was not about money, but seeing that the locals too feel invested," said Harshita.

In his letter to the BMC, Colaba MLA Rahul has said, "There are Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds that are available in abundance and BMC funds should not be used for the same purpose. Based on the Colaba Woods Miyawaki Plantation project done through CSR funds in my ward, the maximum cost should not be more than R400 per tree, (inclusive of earth moving and soil preparation) and the contract was awarded for averaging R800 per tree, which is double the maximum cost."

Some points
Other points raised were that some plots identified in Dadar and Wadala for example, are parks and gardens that have been recently developed, and this plantation project will reduce the open space for people. The letter also cites and questions the credentials of the contractor, stating that, "the consultancy with higher quotations have been given a higher area for plantation," and adds that, "there should be documented proof of the survival rate of the trees previously planted by the company."

A concern
Both Rahul and Harshita claimed that they are concerned this is waste of taxpayer's money, "the money has to be channeled right now for medical purposes. At least for now, we must see this scrapped in the light of public interest," they said. Their letters with identical content were addressed to the municipal commissioner. Copies were also sent to Devendra Fadnavis, leader of opposition in the Maharashtra State Assembly and Ashwini Bhide, Additional Municipal Commissioner, BMC (Gardens). Bhide, when contacted for comment, referred this reporter to the public relations department of the BMC.

Despite repeated attempts, the BMC did not respond to this reporter.

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