The BMC’s garden department has written to the state environment department asking it to issue clear guidelines on implementing the ame-ndments. Identifying and marking heritage trees and measuring the age of trees are the biggest challenges for the BMC and if it isn’t able to do it, several projects will get stuck owing to lack of clearances.
The Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, which was amended in the two-day monsoon session of the state legislature in July, stated that the Maharashtra State Tree Authority be formed to take decisions regarding protection and conservation of trees. The amended Act also stated that all proposals for felling more than 200 trees aged five years and above for any project as well as heritage trees shall be referred to the Maharashtra State Tree Authority and not BMC’s Tree Authority. In case, the state authority recommends felling, the local tree authority may request for reconsideration of the decision. Local tree authorities should ensure that the project is not sub-divided into smaller parts to keep the number of trees below the defined threshold.
“How are we to send proposals to hack 200-plus trees that are more than five years old?” the BMC asked in its letter to the state. “To figure the age of trees, guidelines were to be issued. But till they are issued, how should we process the proposals for hacking of less than 200 trees? How will compensatory tree plantation be carried out? Till these issues are clarified, should BMC process appl-ications for hacking trees bas-ed on the existing guidelines?”
With no response from the state government yet, the Sewri-Worli connector, that will connect Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, and a proposed redevelopment project at Worli will be among the first projects to be hit by the new amendments. Over 550 trees are proposed to be felled and transplanted for these two projects.
Arborist Vaibhav Raje said he has sent a proposal to the BMC to identify heritage trees by measuring their age scient-ifically and is awaiting its nod. “The approximate age of trees can be measured using scientific tools. We can also implement a unique grading system for heritage trees. A comprehensive tree database can be created with their location, recommendation for taking care and heritage grade. The BMC must also develop a system where people can nominate heritage trees in their areas.”