Mumbai : It took two recent deaths from tree falls for the civic gardens department to write to the civic roads department, laying down the ground rules for trenching.

According to gardens department, frequent and unscientific digging by the roads department and utility companies weakens the roots of trees.

“Before carrying out any digging work in the city, the roads department officials should ensure that the tree officer of the ward concerned should receive prior information about the details of the work. The work should be carried out only in the presence of the tree officer of that ward,” wrote Vijay Hire, superintendent of gardens.

“A compulsory distance of two metres should be kept between the tree and the part of the ground to be dug. It should be ensured that the roots are not damaged and that the soil is spread evenly on the roots,” Hire’s letter read.

According to the gardens department, 130 trees in BMC’s jurisdiction had collapsed between June 1 and July 29, while 166 trees has collapsed in private premises during the corresponding period, taking the total to 296.

Similarly, 151 tree branches had fallen in BMC premises during this period, while there were reports of 137 tree-branch fall cases in private premises during the same period, making a total of 288 such cases.

Ashok Pawar, chief engineer, roads department, said, “We have received the letter. However, permissions for most road works are issued at the ward level these days. So, we will circulate copies of the letter to the wards, so that they ensure they follow the directions.”

The gardens department has also introduced a new protective slab around the base of the tree on 12 roads. To name one, Hazarimal Somani Marg that skirts Azad Maidan and leads to CST from Bombay Gym. The slab which has a generous open space protects the roots from indiscriminate digging.

Experts say the main reasons for treefall are the mindless trenching work for utilities which damage the roots and lop-sided trimming which leave the tree imbalanced.

Avinash Kubal, deputy director of the Maharashtra Nature Park, points out that no open space is left around the trunk which leads to root rot.

Activist Rishi Agarwal blamed the faulty tree-planting policy, which lays emphasis on the fast-growing exotic varieties such as Gul Mohar and Peltophorum. “Most of the trees that fall are Gul Mohur because they have shallow roots,’’ he said.

Sachin Unhalekar

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