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Save Mumbai's 1821 Trees


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Representative picture by Zoru Bhathena


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BMC has issued a notice seeking citizens' opinion over cutting of 675 trees and transplantion of 1146 trees in Mumbai. The proposal to remove 1821 trees (675+1146) is for the ongoing Metro 3, 4 and 6 projects by MMRDA and MMRCL. The said proposal to cut the trees need to be vehemently objected given Metro 4 is sub judice while there are appalling discrepancies in the number of trees to be cut as against the number mentioned in the DPR in the case of Metro 6 as well as Metro 4.

Besides, there is a long pending demand by the citizens for Metro 4 and 6 to go underground which can clearly save this mindboggling number of trees. Citizens must rise to ask MMRDA and BMC the rationality to cut such huge number of trees when there is a clear alternative available.

In the wake of a climate emergency in the world which is leading to temperatures soaring extremely high and erratic monsoon causing floods, saving city's greenery has become all the more paramount. By asking BMC to not allow MMRDA to cut the trees, you will be contributing towards saving Mumbai's already depleting green cover. It is our duty to save the city and the planet for the future generations.

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Objection against cutting of 675 and transplantation of 1146 trees owing to Metro 3, 4 and 6.



Dear Sir / Madam,

Kindly register my objection to the tree cutting and transplantation notice released by BMC in the wake of infrastructure projects namely – Metro 3, 4 and 6.

I earnestly request the Tree Authority to disapprove the proposal of MMRDA and MMRC on the following grounds –

1.Availability of a feasible alternative to the cutting of trees – Out of the three Metro projects mentioned in the notice, the Tree Authority must note there has been a long pending demand for the currently elevated metro 4 and 6 to go underground. Citizens have repeatedly, through different forums communicated to MMRDA for considering an UG metro. Hence, when there is a clear alternative available which also works in the larger interest of the public and environment, the Tree Authority must ask MMRDA to consider it. As we understand, the prime duty of the Tree Authority is to work towards conserving tree cover of the city. Also, Tree Authority must advice MMRDA and MMRC to retain maximum trees and use better technology for transplanting with better urban planning parameters once the metro is conceded to be underground.

2.Discrepancy in the number of trees getting affected because of Metro 4 & 6 – While the DPR states cutting of 450 trees due to Metro 4, as of today in reality the notice mentions cutting/transplantation of more than 1510 trees for Metro 4. Whereas for Metro 6, the DPR says, a total of 57 trees would be impacted. This doesn't match with 304 trees that are going to be affected as per the notice released for hearing by the Tree Authority. Citizens demand transparency here before any permission is given.This is a blatant violation of the right of every citizen to know the information affecting them. Also MMRDA's denial of following its duty of disclosing apt figures and maintaining transparency is condemnable.

3.Metro 4 is sub judice – A PIL seeking Hon' High Court's intervention in demanding an UG metro from MMRDA is currently underway. The matter is sub judice as the bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Nitin Jamdar has asked MMRDA to respond. In the spirit of the pending justice to the parties, it is best to not permit MMRDA to go ahead with any cutting or transplantation. We must wait for the court directives and not permit cutting for the fear of permanently losing several age old trees.

4.MOM /details about Public hearing on Environmental and Social Impact caused by Metro 6 dated 21st May 2019 is yet pending – Whilst citizens are yet awaiting details of the public hearing organised by MMRDA on Metro 6, it is unadvisable to allow the tree cutting and let the project progress. The status of citizens' demand for an underground Metro 6 is yet unknown. Citizens must first be clear of the results of their meeting with MMRDA official at the public hearing, only after which the citizens will be able to make a sound decision on allowing the tree cutting.

5.Unclear of the actual plan of Metro 6 – Citizens have no access to the exact plan of Metro 6. As per the little information, we have, it is known that the project is going to be implemented in phases. However, there is no detailed structure plan of the project being handed over to the public.

6. Discrepancy in overall count of trees to be affected across metro lines -Metro6 is divided into 3 phases for efficient construction. In the first 2 phases, a total of 899 trees will be affected. Averaging out, a total of 1350 trees will be affected due to construction of metro 6.Notice was given by tree authority to axe about 3000 trees along metro4 alignment. That makes a total of 4350 trees for only 2 lines.This meeting has called for cutting of 675 trees and transplantation of 1146 trees. Why this discrepancy? What is the actual number of trees being affected?

7. Tree cutting/transplanting is an irreversible act and hence demands caution – In the past we have seen several infrastructural projects that have been abandoned or failed miserably. The monorail and many skywalk projects in Mumbai have not been successful. Trees lost in making of these structures can now not be revived. Hence, it puts an additional responsibility to exercise caution in giving permission to MMRDA / MMRCL.

8. Species and age of trees proposed to be cut / transplanted unclear – The metro stretches are home to some of the most ancient as well as heritage trees. A 100 year old tree cannot be put in the list of trees that are less than a year old and not indigenous. Tree Authority must publish list of trees with age/species wise classification. This will help citizens to decide more rationally.

9. Public Health at stake – we are all victims of the increasing air pollution in the city. Several infrastructural projects underway have only added to the pollution chaos. This has been adversely affecting the health of the public at large.

The danger of PM 2.5 –
- Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-government organisation's report on air pollution has shown Mumbai surpassing Delhi making it one of the most polluted cities in the world.
- The suspended particulate matter in the air has created havoc around the world. As per data gathered by the Central Pollution Control Board, PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels have been steadily on rise in Mumbai.
- PM 2.5 is highly dangerous given the micro size of it helping the matter to enter the lungs causing respiratory disorders to humans.
- Tree covers particularly in the urban setting can reduce the PM concentrations in the atmosphere.
- Tree canopies trap the particulate matter (both PM 2.5 and PM 10) in different capacities depending on the size of the canopy and the tree species. The canopy in simple words act as a natural filter that not only reduces the PM by quarter atleast but also leads to redilution where the cleaner air mixes with ambient air to substantially dilute the concentration on the other side of the tree.
- Increasing cooling intensity affecting electricity consumption / Carbon sequestration –
- The canopies of the trees provide shade that blocks excess heat from reaching the ground maintaining cooler temperature.
- The cool air when manoeuvres from below the tree canopy and gets mixed with the ambient air, it further reduces the temperature of the surrounding area by mixing of cool air with average temperature.
- More number of trees thus reduce the resident's dependence on air-conditioning systems that in turn reduce emission of greenhouse gases as well as reduce consumption of fossil fuels used to produce the same electricity.
- A dense tree cover also leads to further carbon sequestration which would positively contribute to curb the effects of climate change.
- The entire stretches of Metro 3, 4 and 6 are residential areas that are facing high to very high PM levels. An approval to MMRDA and MMRC to cut the trees will be nothing less than compromising public's health.

Considering the above vital observations, it can be vividly concluded that such mass cutting of trees puts public’s health at stake. The entire process of execution of these Metro projects remain opaque and not logical. Matters being sub judice it will be unjust to let MMRDA go ahead with the tree cuttings. We urge the Tree Authority to advice MMRDA to have Metro 4 and 6 go underground while ensuring a design that accommodates the greenery of the city.

Your sincerely,

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