112 of­fi­cials not enough to take care of over 25 lakh trees, fear ac­tivists

The Free Press Journal - - MUMBAI - AKASH SAKARIA

Tree ac­tivists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists from the city have al­leged that the Bri­han­mum­bai Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (BMC) does not have enough qual­i­fied tree of­fi­cers in its gar­den depart­ment to pro­tect green cover of the city.

This comes af­ter the BMC sub­mit­ted a list of 112 qual­i­fied staff to the Supreme Court (SC) in its gar­den depart­ment who look af­ter tree-re­lated mat­ters in Mum­bai and as­sist the Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sioner.

The list was sub­mit­ted when the SC was hear­ing a case filed by BMC's tree au­thor­ity chal­leng­ing the High Court (HC) judg­ment which has re­strained the BMC chief from de­cid­ing tree cut­ting pro­pos­als be­low 25 trees.

The pe­ti­tion in HC was filed by Khar res­i­dent and ac­tivist Zoru Ba­thena against the high num­ber of tree cut­ting pro­pos­als with the Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sioner.

"If there are 26 lakh trees under BMC's ju­ris­dic­tion (as told by the civic body to HC last year), and if there are 112 tree of­fi­cials, how are they go­ing to look af­ter so many trees? It is next to im­pos­si­ble for one of­fi­cer to look af­ter 23,215 trees. This shows BMC's se­ri­ous­ness to­wards pro­tect­ing trees," said Ba­thena.

Ac­cord­ing to the civic body, it has 112 tree of­fi­cers in its gar­den depart­ment which are posted across 24 civic wards. Each ward is re­quired to have an as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of gar­dens, a hor­ti­cul­ture as­sis­tant and ju­nior tree of­fi­cers.

How­ever, Ba­thena as­serts that many civic wards do not have qual­i­fied tree of­fi­cers. He also claims that the list of 112 tree of­fi­cers which the BMC sub­mit­ted to the SC has 15 names miss­ing. "The wards like B (Masjid, Don­gri), C ward (Marine lines, Zaveri Bazaar), E ward (By­culla, Mum­bai Cen­tral), G-N ward (Worli) and T ward (Mu­lund) do not have the qual­i­fied staff in the tree depart­ment," Ba­thena said.

BMC’s tree au­thor­ity had chal­lenged the HC’s judg­ment which re­strained the BMC chief from de­cid­ing on tree cut­ting pro­pos­als be­low 25 trees.

On the other hand, Kishore Kshirsagar, Deputy Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sioner (Gar­dens), de­fended the strength of the team. He said, "The of­fi­cers are di­vided as per the ward area. No one seeks per­mis­sion to cut all the trees in the city. Con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of pro­pos­als for tree cut­ting and trim­ming that we get from those 10,000 to 20,000 trees in each ward, the strength of the of­fi­cers is suf­fi­cient."

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