The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which functions under the aegis of Shiv Sena, gave a nod for felling more than 14,000 trees in 2019.
According to Mumbai-based green activist Zoru Bhathena, the civic body issued 906 notices over the year that allowed the removal of 14, 518 trees (felling and transplantation) in the city. The figures come as a shock since the party, now in power, vowed to ensure that not a single tree is felled or touched on his watch. Sena was at the forefront of the Aarey forest protests.
Bhathena arrived at the figure by keeping a tab on all the news published across web portals and newspapers concerning the number of notices issued by BMC to remove trees. The findings revealed that as many as 40 trees were removed per day in 2019 on the behest of the Sena-run civic body, adding up to a whopping 1,200 per month.
Talking about the alarming rates of felling, the activist said: “The figures are shocking. Why can’t the authority do its work for the very purpose it has been set-up. The job of BMC’s Tree Authority is to figure out how to protect the existing trees, not destroy them.”
He added: “The civic body may claim that two new trees are planted in lieu of every tree removed, but has anyone seen the 28,000 new trees?”
According to a Free Press Journal report, Shiv Sena group leader and Tree Authority member Yashwant Jadhav said: “We always object to tree cutting proposals. The only ones getting our clearance were those that were aimed at larger benefits of the people.”
The Sena leader even claimed that most of the proposals had been approved by the Tree Authority because they were backed by the-then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, among others.
The activist, however, claimed that most of the trees were removed last year to widen nullahs and roads, and also for private building constructions.
Moreover, the removal of another 300 trees has already been sanctioned by the BMC to facilitate the ongoing work to build the green cycle track. This, Bhathena finds disheartening and unnecessary, since cycling tracks do not need to be straight and a green cover along the path would have only made the experience more beautiful for the cyclists.
Meanwhile, Tree Authority member and BJP corporator Abhijit Samant has questioned the numbers claimed by the activist, hinting at it being inflated out of proportion.
He claimed: “No tree removal proposal is passed by the civic body until a meeting is arranged with experts to weigh out the pros and cons, which, in this year, was postponed for a very long time. Moreover, only one meeting of the tree authority is held every month, wherein a maximum of five to seven proposals got cleared per month in 2019. Meaning, the numbers produced by the activist do not match the actual number of notices issued this year.”