BMC yet to find a tree expert who fulfils  Bombay High Court criteria

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has yet to come across a candidate who satisfies the criteria to be a tree expert. The Bombay High Court had restrained the civic body and directed it to refrain from giving permission to cut trees, until the latter found independent experts who could advise the Tree Authority. The permissions also include the proposal to cut 2,702 trees in Aarey Milk Colony.

Civic officials said no candidate matched the criteria laid down by the court. “Some of them are: The candidate should have at least 10 years of experience in tree plantation, transplantation and maintenance. Then, the candidate should be affiliated to a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which should be registered with the social forestry department. And after that, preference will still be given to candidates who are from national NGOs,” said a civic official. He also added candidates having a degree in forestry or horticulture would also be given preference.

Until the civic body finds experts fulfilling these conditions, according to the law, it cannot process any tree proposal. The Tree Authority is formed as per the Maharashtra Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, and is headed by the municipal commissioner.

However, the officials said, the corporation, in an affidavit, while accepting its inability to find experts, had argued that nomination of such an expert was optional and not mandatory. The court quashed its statement nonetheless. “Something has to be done quickly or the development projects will be stalled. We are reviewing all the options to comply with the court directives,” said the official.

Environmentalists feel the civic body should open recruitment and issue a public notice.  “Just like they put up notices to pull down trees, they can lay down the criteria for the said job. They will definitely meet the requirements,” said Hiren Joshi, a social activist.

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