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Mumbai: ‘Flies in the face of G20 commitment’

Updated on: 23 September,2023 07:36 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar | hemal@mid-day.com

Mumbai First wades into Malabar Hill water reservoir controversy; writes to Governor about losing green cover

Mumbai: ‘Flies in the face of G20 commitment’

Residents and officials at a site visit with the latter explaining the water reservoir project. Pic/Anurag Ahire

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Adding ballast to the save Malabar Hill trees campaign, Mumbai First, a prestigious public-private partnership, whose tagline says it all: ‘to make the city a better place to live, work and invest in’, has written a letter to Maharashtra Governor Ramesh Bais.


The letter, dated September 21, is headlined: Cutting Down Trees: Malabar Hill Area. The 1.5-page communication, signed by Mumbai First Chairman Narinder Nayar takes into account press reports about a proposal for a new water reservoir at Malabar Hill.


The new reservoir will necessitate the cutting down of 389 trees in the area, at Pherozeshah Mehta Garden, also known as Hanging Gardens and Shantivan Garden tucked away behind Hanging Gardens. Officials clarified that there are 189 trees which will need to be cut and 200 that will be transplanted. 


Narinder Nayar, chairman, Mumbai FirstNarinder Nayar, chairman, Mumbai First

Locals, though, say the 200 will nevertheless be removed from the area. An official stated that these 200 trees will be transplanted in Bhandup. Technicalities aside, the bottom line is that the Malabar Hill area will lose substantial green cover.

Now Nayar has added decibels to all the voices going up to relook at this proposal or asking those in charge, the BMC, water department and engineers to consider an alternative to hacking down trees.

Greener

Excerpts from Nayar’s letter read: ‘It is a matter of great achievement that under India’s G20 Presidency—we achieved a rare feat—consensus for the joint communique that was elusive in Bali last year. The New Delhi Communique highlights several agreements to deal with the challenges of climate change. Also, on this occasion, our PM together with world leaders launched a special mission: ‘Together for a greener future’.

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In the next paragraph, the Mumbai First chairman notes that he has been concerned after reading press reports that at least 389 trees are going to be chopped down in the Malabar Hill area. This, he said, “flies in the face of India’s commitment at the G20.”

He cites severe adverse consequences of tree cutting, some of which are: “Cutting down trees contributes to emissions and climate change, extreme weather events, which affect our cities. By destroying nature’s mechanism, we are reducing the earth’s ability to deal with high carbon concentrations.”

Alternatives

Nayar said that everybody realised and acknowledged the need to augment water resources in Mumbai. His letter though added, “However,  the economic consideration should not be at the cost of the environment. We must look at alternative solutions.”

In a recent meet between residents and officials pushing for the project, the former had stressed that they thought enough effort was not taken in looking for alternatives, and if there was will, there was sure to be some alternative to cutting trees in the vicinity for a reservoir.

Expertise

In his letter, Nayar pointed to a past Mumbai First project where the organisation committed to enhancing city livability, had initiated the preparation of a Concept Plan 2050 for the MMR, and it was prepared by a Singapore consultant. 

They had proposed some solutions for water problems. The letter said, “Singapore is a good example where they had created considerable water reservoirs by reclamation.”

In the end, Mumbai First said that they requested, “a committee be set up which we will fully support and we will bring in international experts from Singapore, Netherlands and other countries, to consider how we can deal with the challenges that we face here.”

Livelihood

In the end, the letter said, “to protect and conserve critical ecological systems and resources and invaluable natural and manmade heritage, are essential for life support livelihoods, economic growth and a broad conception of human wellbeing.” It said that they could be physically present to discuss the matter if the governor could spare some time too.

Optimistic

Nayar said, “I decided to write as I was alarmed and concerned at the press reports. To say that there is no alternative when we are in such a hi-tech age is wrong. We can have a team of experts to assess the situation.” 

When asked if he thought the letter could actually lead to re-thinks or some action, the chairman said cheerily, “Yes, we have to be positive and we are optimists.” The communication is marked to a host of top leaders including state Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and others.

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