Infra, realty projects stuck as Tree Authority stops clearing projects

In a sudden move, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC's) Tree Authority has stopped issuing No-Objection Certificates for all development projects that propose to cut trees in the city. The temporary measure will continue until the civic body furnishes details on how many previously-approved projects had adhered to the mandatory rule of transplanting trees cut in the past year.

The Tree Authority comprises 15 elected members or corporators and nine nominated members representing different walks of life. The Authority's abrupt decision has affected 57 proposals that were due for approval at the meeting on Wednesday. More than 80 per cent of these proposals are related to real estate projects while the rest are infrastructure project works.

"The Tree Authority has approved of many proposals to cut trees in the last one year, provided the developers transplant or re-plant them. Developers sign an undertaking stating they will compensate for the loss of green cover and deposit money with the BMC. Yet, whenever we ask for data on how many have followed this rule, civic officials dilly-dally without giving answers," said Niranjan Shetty, nominated member of the Tree Authority.

According to the Authority's agenda for Wednesday's meeting, roughly 1,500 trees, especially in the western suburbs are due to be axed. As per the civic norms, for every tree cut, two more trees must be planted. The 2008 tree census recorded about 19 lakh trees in Mumbai and the civic gardens department believes this green count has now doubled.

Another Tree Authority member Amit Satam of the BJP said, "Since a large number of proposals required sanction on Wednesday, we unanimously felt we should take such an extreme action, otherwise the BMC will continue to take us for granted. We have also demanded that the corporation arrange site-visits to the places where these trees have been transplanted or re-planted so that we can verify the data."

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