Cyclone Tauktae: Corporators and resident groups clear uprooted trees on their own

Four days after cyclone Tauktae hit Mumbai, public representatives and residents' welfare groups have now started to take matters into their own hands and clear uprooted trees. According to BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), 812 trees had uprooted and 1,454 branches had fallen during the cyclone between May 16 and May 18 in all the 24 municipal wards of the city. Civic officials said that this is the highest number of trees that fell during a cyclone or storm in many years. As a result, the garden cell is taking more time than usual to clear uprooted trees.

Tejasvee Abhishekh Ghosalkar, Shiv Sena corporator from R North (Dahisar) has appointed private contractors to chop trees and outsourced the removal of debris to private workers. "We have purchased our own tree cutting machines and have leased JCB, dumpers and tractors from private contractors, which are being used to clear uprooted trees," Ghosalkar said.

The corporator said that more than 200 trees and branches had fallen in this ward, which had blocked roads and affected vehicular movement. He added that, in the past three days, his team has been able to clean debris from roads and 17-18 housing society premises. "BMC workers are exhausted and understaffed. It would have taken much more time for the trees to get cleared had we not taken matters in our hands. We have 12 volunteers from our party office who are directly supervising the work on ground," Ghosalkar said.

Asif Zakaria, senior Congress corporator from Bandra (West), has said that in many housing societies, residents have appointed private contractors to clear uprooted trees.

"Generally, if a tree uproots in a private space, it's the responsibility of the residents to clear it. Now that this is an extraordinary situation, BMC is helping. However, to fasten up the process, both citizens and BMC have appointed private contractors," Zakaria said.

Dhaval Shah, founder and spokesperson of Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizen's Association (LOCA), said that, in Andheri, as many as 50 housing societies have removed the fallen trees on their own. "The residents are calling private contractors, who are chopping and dumping the tree parts outside the premises and are being taken away by BMC," Shah said. Furthermore, he said that private contractors charge between Rs 3,000 to Rs 35,000 depending on the size of the tree.

Aneesh Makwani, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator from Juhu, has written to the municipal commissioner, asking to waive off the fees for tree lifting charged by BMC. "Mumbaikars have faced a financial crisis during the pandemic, which is why we have asked BMC to not put an extra load on citizens and clear the trees for free," Makwani said.

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