Trees vs open spaces is not a debate city needs

Updated: 21 December, 2019 09:15 IST | The Editorial | Mumbai

Like the BMC leader of the opposition from the Congress, Ravi Raja, aptly said on Thursday, every municipal commissioner seems to come with their own vision of what is good for the city and what is not

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is again in the news for one of its policies, even as it has had to beat a hasty retreat on its ambitious parking penalty regime. But the more worrying policy decision concerns not the city's streets, but something far more important — Mumbai's gardens and open spaces.

Like the BMC leader of the opposition from the Congress, Ravi Raja, aptly said on Thursday, every municipal commissioner seems to come with their own vision of what is good for the city and what is not.

Thus, it happens that the current commissioner — an avid environmentalist — wants to embark on a massive forestation drive along the lines of the Miyawaki Method. The Japanese technique which is based on planting native saplings extremely close to each other in order to create a green canopy once they are grown.

After sanctioning R35 crore for the project, the wise men who run the city hall have woken up to the downside of the method. Miyawaki forests will leave people with no space to walk through the canopy, unlike regular trees.

On Thursday, a report in this newspaper raised another pertinent red flag — five of the places where these forests will be grown happen to be crucial open spaces servicing densely populated areas of this space-starved city. Some playgrounds may lose more than half their open spaces.
Nobody denies that the city needs more trees and needs them urgently. But, clearly, the mandarins sitting in the BMC headquarters understand that trees cannot be at the cost of existing meagre open spaces.

Officials first need to take residents into confidence, before planning the introduction of urban forests in a manner that does not inconvenience citizens. If the civic body does not undertake a course correction immediately, it will face yet another disaster along the lines of its other failures. Only, this one would have come at a high cost to the city and its citizens.

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First Published: 21 December, 2019 09:12 IST

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