Nearly a third of the green cover in the premises of the main building in the state secretariat (Mantralaya) is set to be cut for renovating the structure. There are 93 trees here, of these 29 are to be cut. And the sad part is 28 of them are being chopped for enabling the movement of the vehicles of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, his deputy Ajit Pawar, etc.
A proposal in this regard will be discussed by the tree authority of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) this week. The idea is, however, being opposed by tree authority members of parties other than the Congress and the NCP.
"I have gone through the proposal, but can't understand why the government wants to hack trees for movement of vehicles? One can understand if trees are cut for constructing buildings that facilitate the public. Hence we oppose the move," said Dilip Lande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's (MNS) member of BMC's tree authority. He added that his party would oppose any move to reduce green cover for the convenience of a few.
Shiv Sena's nominated councilor, Avkash Jadhav, who had objected to the BMC practice injecting trees to kill them, too opposed the idea. "The government should have come up with a plan that would have spared the trees. If the highest administrative body in the state chooses not to cut trees, that would have set the right example for other governing bodies," Jadhav said.
Activists, meanwhile, expressed doubts whether the authorities concerned would plant trees in place of those that they cut. "Trees should be cut only if it's inevitable. And experience has taught us that trees once cut are not replaced. Chavan and Pawar should walk the few steps to reach their offices instead of cutting down trees," Nikhil Desai, a member of NGO AGNI, said.
Despite repeated attempts, Chavan chose not to revert.
The state government through architect Raja Aderi has sought the tree authority's permission to cut 29 trees on survey numbers 1577 to 1579 and 1580 to 1590. If permitted, tree numbers 61 (a rain tree called samanea saman), 71 to 74 and 77 to 79 (polyalthia longifolia) will be cut for the smooth movement of the vehicles of Chavan and Pawar. In addition to this, 20 more trees, including bottle palm and polyalthia longifolia, will be cut to enable smooth vehicular movement. Another tree, a type of peltophorum ferrugineum, is to be chopped for constructing a substation in the premise.
Tree hacking: what the law says?
If one wants to cut trees, he/she needs to seek permission under the Maharashtra (Urban area) Tree Protection and Conservation Act, 1975. At present, the BMC charges Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000, respectively for allowing removal and transplantation of a tree. The corporation also seeks a security deposit of Rs 6,000. In return for cutting a tree, the party concerned has to plant two trees.
The BMC takes the responsibility of trimming and removing dangerous trees in its plots. In case of trees planted on private plots, the expenses are to be borne by the parties concerned with the approval of the BMC.
Norms also insist that five trees have to be planted on an area of 100 sq metres if it's a recreational ground. In case of play grounds, the ratio is two trees per 100 sq metres.