103 trees face the axe at Willingdon

Monday, 16 December 2013 - 10:32am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Notices pasted at night and peeled off hastily, say locals.

After almost losing their homes to redevelopment, residents of Willingdon Colony  in Santa Cruz (west) are now at risk of losing the green cover in their backyard. At least 103 trees to be cut had notices pasted on them on December 2 by the builder for development purposes

The builder has been engaged in a long-drawn dispute with the residents over redevelopment of the proposed heritage site.

Residents claim that the BMC’s tree-cutting notice was pasted only for a period of three days instead of the mandatory seven days given to invite objections. “Firstly, they pasted them at night and within three days, they removed them so that we residents don’t object to the cutting. Over 100 trees is no small number, especially in Mumbai where we should be protecting the little greenery we have left,” said a resident requesting anonymity. “The builder has been trying to harass us into withdrawing the cases, he started with the trees and recently stopped visitors from coming in.”

Willingdon Colony is nearly a century-old Catholic settlement. A prominent green pocket in the locality, it houses 20 cottages and more than 400 trees that include coconut, chickoo, tamarind, mango and tadgola (ice apples) trees dating back 100 years. The colony is one of the few remaining resorts for the city’s tiny animals and birds like squirrels, parrots, thrushes, kites, bulbuls and kingfishers among others.

In 2009, the Colony was bought over by Sumer Group, which proposed to redevelop it under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority scheme, leading to a dispute between the residents and the builder.

The  matter, which was entrusted to a high-powered committee, is yet to be resolved.

The colony was listed as a proposed heritage site in the Maharashtra Heritage Conservation Committee’s draft heritage list in 2012 but when the builder razed about 5 cottages this year, residents went to court, enlisting support from the heritage conservation body which reiterated that its clearance is needed for any development on proposed heritage land.

“No permission has been given by the Tree Authority to cut trees. The request was supposed to be discussed at the next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. The hearing will be held tomorrow where a decision will be made,” says Amit Satham a member of the Tree Authority. They have filed a petition signed by almost 200 people against this tree-cutting, which will be heard by the Tree Authority on Tuesday.

When dna tried to contact the builder, he was unavailable for comment.

Trouble brewing in green pocket
Almost 100 years old, Willingdon Colony is houses 20 cottages and more than 400 trees

These include ancient coconut, chickoo, tamarind, mango and tadgola trees

It’s one of the few havens for tiny creatures like squirrels, parrots, thrushes, kites, bulbuls.

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