All 625 trees in the 22-hectare, wooded Worli BDD chawl enclave will be affected by Mhada’s ongoing Rs 11,744-crore redevelopment project. Mhada proposes to cut down 253 of them and transplant the remaining 372 trees to make way for 87 buildings to resettle the 9,680 tenants, both residential and commercial, and ten 70-storey buildings that comprise the sale component on the site. The project is to be implemented in five phases and is expected to be completed in eight years.
Activists and residents have raised objections to the tree-cutting/transplantation proposal even before the building plans have been approved. “How do the authorities know which trees to be cut without the building plans being approved. The project does not even have an environmental clearance,” said activist Zoru Bhathena. Also, tree transplantation has had a very poor success rate, said activists.
Pointing out that the Worli BDD chawl is part of the heritage precinct, Bhathena said a no-objection certificate from the heritage committee is mandatory. “The superintendent of gardens should have first ascertained that all permissions are in place before advertising its intent to allow cutting/transplantation of trees,” said Bhathena, adding that it is a serious issue as nearly 3,000 trees across the city have been marked by the BMC for cutting/ transplantation since January.
Jeetendra Pardesi, superintendent of gardens, said the objective of inviting objections and suggestions is to ascertain if a tree needs to be cut or transplanted. “We have asked Mhada to clarify on all the objections that have been received. These will be placed before the tree authority, which will decide on the proposal,” he said.
Deependra Khushwaha, chief officer of the Mumbai board, said: “The building plans of Phase-I will be approved by Mhada within a week. We are applying simultaneously for all permissions so that the project is not delayed. No tree will be cut unless necessary.”
In June, the Union ministry of environment and forests granted the terms of reference for the project, which included obtaining an environmental clearance and submitting a report on the trees. S Konnur, Mhada executive engineer and in-charge of the project, said, “After the Phase-I plans are approved, the proposal will be placed before the state environment appraisal committee-II. As per norms, we will plant two trees for every tree that is cut.”