Mumbai: Vehicle-towing firms awarded tree trimming contracts

Mumbai: If the trees on your street or in a public area look as though they have been hacked with an axe or a saw wielded by untrained hands, that could precisely be the case. Vehicle-towing companies have been tasked with tree-trimming by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

This, although BMC regulations stipulate contractors interested in the work to have at least one well-trained horticulturist on their payroll. Even last year, private companies, whose primary business is either towing vehicles, manufacturing plastic products or construction, had been checking on tree conditions and chopping overgrown branches while also carrying out ‘transplantation’ in several neighbourhoods.

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) pointed out the Bandra ward (H-West) has awarded a Rs 3crore contract for tree-cutting and maintenance to Khandeshwar Towing, a firm engaged in towing vehicles. “We received a Right to Information (RTI) reply on the subject from alert citizens revealing that the contractor was appointed by BMC for tree trimming. The money realised from the disposal of wood went to the company,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation.

The civic body had begun outsourcing the job in 2014. Before that, the corporation’s own staff and gardeners would identify dangers to public safety and property, prune or saw off unstable limbs of trees. A civic tree officer, on condition of anonymity, said although there are certain conditions on hiring the contractors, it is the lowest bidder who gets the job.  Citizens expressed their displeasure over the civic body’s indifference towards environment and green spaces. “No wonder even the trees that look healthy are axed. This is what happens when people are hired without the required qualification,” said Lilian Pais, a Bandra resident.

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