Mumbai: 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.”