In a public notice issued on Friday, the Tree Authority of Mumbai addressed the controversial proposal by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to cut down three trees and replant two others affected by the reconstruction of the Gopal Krishna Gokhale Bridge in Andheri East. The notice has added fuel to the residents' anger over the bridge's delayed reopening, resulting in criticism of the civic authorities for their lack of planning.
Initially, the BMC had assured the public that one arm of the vital east-west connector would be reopened before the onset of the monsoon. Unfortunately, due to a strike at a steel company in Rourkela, the previous deadline was pushed back by five months. This delay has further aggravated the local residents and commuters who are already burdened by traffic problems in Andheri. To their dismay, the BMC is now seeking permission from the Tree Authority to cut down trees and facilitate the movement of cranes for the construction of an open web girder over the railway portion of the bridge.
Criticism from Environmental Activists and Local Associations
Zoru Bhathena, an environmental activist, expressed his disappointment, stating, "The BMC had initially promised to reopen the bridge by May 2023. Now, we see them requesting permission to cut down trees affected by the bridge construction. This clearly demonstrates a lack of planning and suggests they were deceiving us until now." Dhaval Shah, President of the Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizen's Association, voiced his concerns, saying, "The bridge has been closed for eight months, and only now does the BMC realize that five trees need to be axed? We doubt their ability to keep their word and reopen the bridge by October due to such poor planning."
Blaming Lack of Foresight and Revised Timeline
The residents of Andheri hold the lack of foresight responsible for the last-minute requirements and subsequent project delays. They emphasize that these issues impede project implementation. The BMC has now set a new target, aiming to complete one lane by the end of October. Subsequently, work on the second lane will commence in November 2023 and is projected to be finished by May 2024. Since November 2022, the bridge has been closed to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.