Why are trees dying in Mumbai? MNC manager finds out

Feb 11, 2014, 06:58 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

The Accenture employee surveys 611 trees across western suburbs on foot over two months, to come to the disturbing conclusion that half of them are dead or dying

This could, and should, put the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to shame. While city’s civic body has done nothing to save the dying rain trees lining some of the major roads in Mumbai over the past six to eight months, Kshitij Ashtekar, a senior manager at Accenture, has come to their rescue.

Dying Rain trees that line Link Road in Malad (West). Pic/Amit Jadhav
Dying Rain trees that line Link Road in Malad (West). Pic/Amit Jadhav

Ashtekar conducted an independent survey of the Rain trees at various arterial roads in the western suburbs, on foot. Ashtekar prepared a detailed report on the survey and presented it to senior BMC officials a few days ago, who then agreed to work on the measures suggested by him, to save the dying trees.

Ashtekar said, “I was very concerned about the state of the dying Rain trees, which provide the highest percentage of green cover to the city. I conducted the survey on weekends, examining 50-80 trees at a time. I mapped about 611 trees for four to five weeks in December and January, working only on weekends, as I work on weekdays.”

Ashtekar learnt that the trees growing on the side of concrete roads were dying because concrete was not allowing rainwater to seep in and reach their roots. “I also found that there was heavy infestation of pests like mealy bugs and amphids. Another factor is the heavy construction activity in Mumbai, with deep excavations.

Dying Rain trees that line Link Road in Malad (West). Pic/Amit Jadhav

Water pumped out of these construction sites, which contains cement concrete particles, is collected in the storm water drainage. At some paces the trees were dying because of fungal and bacterial infections. It is hard to pinpoint one reason, but normally it is a combination of these reasons playing out,” he added.

The study points out that Rain trees that are on open grounds are still doing well, unless infected. The survey has also revealed that 50 per cent of the trees he surveyed are infected and dying, or already dead. “This is very alarming, given that the rain trees provide the largest percentage of green cover in the city,” Ashtekar pointed out.

Goregaon MG Road has a huge Rain tree canopy. But now, it’s depressing to see the trees dying. Our lives are so closely linked to that of trees they breathe in the CO2 we breathe out and give us oxygen. It will be disaster to lose these 50-60-year-old-trees, which will need at least 50 years to be fully replaced. - Kshitij Ashtekar

Measures suggested for saving Rain trees
>> Injecting dying trees with fungicides and NPK shots to revive them
>> Stopping heavy pruning of infected trees 
>> Checking the possibility of spraying the trees with insecticide 
>> Digging open pits around trees 
>> Conducting tests of ground water tables, and quality of water (pH, pollutants etc) 
>> Planting more trees in open spaces 
>> Planting more native trees like Wadh, Pimpal, which seem to be surviving better than Rain trees 
>> Not planting a single species in clusters and lines, as in the Rain Tree Marg in Navi Mumbai 
>> Providing open pits and providing for rainwater seepage 
>> Using more scientific methods when pruning trees, using sterilised equipment

BMC speaks
Additional Municipal Commissioner SS Shinde, also in charge of the Gardens Department, said, “We have gone through the presentation on the survey. We have taken note of the suggestions made in the presentation and I have already instructed the concerned officials from the Garden department to see to it that the suggestions are followed, so that Rain trees can be saved.”

Locations of survey
Goregaon (West), Link Road Malad West, Andheri (West), DN Nagar.

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