For the first time, old trees in the south Mumbai neighbourhood of Nepean Sea Road, Malabar Hills and Lamington Road will be scientifically examined for good health. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has appointed an arborist, also known as a tree surgeon, to conduct an audit of trees that can fall and cause loss of life and property.
The pilot project will be launched in D ward. The appointed arborist, Vaibhav Raje, said he has received the work order from the BMC and will start as soon as there is a dry spell. His survey will include assessing the structural stability of every tree in the ward to ascertain decay and calculate a risk-benefit ratio. The trees will be trimmed or felled if risks outweigh their benefits.
Assistant municipal commissioner Prashant Gaikwad said, “A visual survey doesn’t allow us to identify the health of trees scientifically. In the first phase, around 100-150 trees from the ward will be audited by Raje using a tree and timber inspection tool called resistograph.” Gaikwad said Raje will submit an audit report after the assessment.
Gaikwad said the pilot project will take two-three weeks to complete, and his office has marked the trees that need scientific audit on a priority basis.
“There have been innumerable cases of loss of life and property across the city due to tree falls. This survey will allow us to take proactive measures to avert any accidents in the future,” said Gaikwad.
Raje explained that the survey will give an idea of urban tree management in Mumbai. “It will help us save both trees and human lives at the same time. In case a tree has an imminent risk of falling, our job will be to guide the administration in implementing the best action possible,” he said.
Earlier in May, during Cyclone Tauktae, over 2,000 trees and branches of others fell across the city, causing severe loss of property. Many environmentalists and green activists have been urging the BMC to conduct regular scientific tree audits every year.
Environmentalist Zoru Bhathena lauded the move and said the BMC has a dedicated trees and garden department for the maintenance of its green cover. He said, “They are supposed to initiate surveys on their own, but we know that this department is understaffed. Also, civic workers don’t have proper logistics to carry out such surveys,” Bhathena told FPJ.