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Mumbai Tree-fall Incidents At A High

The tree-covered city has seen a steep rise in the number of tree-fall injuries, deaths, and property damage this year. Along with the reducing tree cover, the issue poses a problem to the city.

A tree collapsed on a car.
A collapsed tree in Mumbai (Source: DNA)

A 9-year-old boy lost his life after being crushed by a heavy tree branch that fell near a chawl in Lower Parel. The incident that occurred on Friday is among 6 other casualties occurring due to tree-falls this year in Mumbai. Samir Bosak, the 9-year-old boy lived along with his family in the Marwadi Chawl where the incident took place. BMC officials said that the boy was playing in the are when a heavy branch from a nearby Peepal tree fell on him. The boy suffered serious injuries on his chest. The boy was rushed to the hospital by locals where he was declared dead on arrival. The BMC removed the branch from the premises immediately saying they would trim the tree in the next two days. Officials said the tree is on private property putting it out of the BMCs jurisdiction. However, this isn’t the first time the BMC has shrugged responsibility for a tree-fall.

Multiple instances in the past have seen the BMC pointing to the fact that a tree was on private premises. In early August this year, the BMC broke records when 612 tree-fall reports were registered in the city within 72 hours; a daily average of a whopping 200 trees. Most of these incidents were recorded in A-Ward or the Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Marine Drive, and CST areas of the city. 35 cars were damaged with some in a completely destroyed condition. Although no serious incident was reported that week, a tree-fall in Byculla zoo threatened the life of barking deers in a nearby enclosure. Reports suggest that tree-fall incidents are up this year by 87%. Branch fall incidents were up by 62% from the average.

The latest census data shows that the city has a total of about 29 lakh trees, 15.3 lakh of which lie in private premises accounting for 54% of the total. The BMC sanctions a contract of 45 crore rupees each year for the trimming of these trees. This year, the BMC pruned 90,000 trees around the city. Although the BMC has a system for private societies to request pruning of trees on a complaint/request basis, many societies choose not to do so due to the high charges. The BMC can charge anywhere in the range of 5,000 to 10,000 rupees per tree pruned. Additionally, the body has no set rules for societies or private land tree inspections to prevent such mishaps. Furthermore, mishaps have also occurred involving contract workers employed by the BMC themselves. On May 29th, a contract labourer Ambika Kale was cleaning a drain during the pre-monsoon pruning drive when the branch of a tree fell on her leading to her untimely demise.

Tree falls are natural occurrences that can be prevented but not completely stopped. Proactive management within the city can help reduce the frequency of mishaps and save people from damage to property and life. The BMC must have guidelines in place for societies for annual prunings or tree danger assessments. Trees that are dangerous can be marked so as to notify people of the danger it may possess. Thorough inspections of ground can also prevent the BMC from having to pass the buck and save-face.

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