Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) is one of the richest corporations of the State having a budget of Rs 1300 crore, but when it comes to ensuring the well-being of Navi Mumbaikars, it has really poor figures to show.
A look at the tree budget for 2009-10 reveals that to preserve mangroves, the tree authority had allocated Rs 20 lakh but surprisingly, the amount spent for the purpose is zero! Similarly, to save trees by using metal protectors, the corporation was supposed to spend Rs 90 lakh but unfortunately even here the amount spent is just Rs 34 lakh, which is not even half of the total amount.
For the overall budget of the tree authority for the year 2009-10, the corporation had allocated Rs 628.50 lakh, however the expenses incurred till November 2009 were Rs 97 lakh and the expected expenditure till March-end is 180 lakh more. In all the corporation is going to spend only 1/3 of the total budget allocation.
“Preserving and protecting the trees to maintain ecological balance, is much important than just going on planting the trees”, says VA Rode, agro- horticulturist and Vashi resident. He adds, “Earlier there were not too many trees being planted in the city but now you can see trees are being planted at every nook and corner of the city. But this does not mean that just by planting the trees the problem can be solved. Trees must be protected and preserved too”.
Navi Mumbai is surrounded by creek on one side and mountains on the other. The mountainous area has been completely denuded of trees. The creek side is fully covered by mangroves, which play a very vital role in preserving the ecology in Navi Mumbai. They act as the sponge when seawater increases during high tides and during rains. “This is the reason Navi Mumbai usually does not have water logging but as we go on destroying these mangroves we can be certain of disastrous consequences,” says Rode.
“Creating awareness is imperative to save trees. It’s good that most of the schools and colleges are undertaking tree campaigns and other such programmes. Even subjects like ‘environmental studies’ are being taught in schools to make children aware of the environment,” he says.
One such initiative of ‘Clean and Green Cities’ is being undertaken by Indian Women Scientists Association (IWSA). IWSA had started a programme involving schoolchildren and teachers in the city collecting environmental data as well as creating awareness about the environment. All the teachers and students in and around Navi Mumbai collected data on how to keep it a clean and green city.
Speaking on the issue of the greenery in Navi Mumbai, Dhiraj Patil, a resident of Sector 22, Koper Khairane says, “On the one hand, there is more greenery in areas that are left untouched. For example, at the end of Sector 22 in Kopar Khairane mangroves have really grown over the last 20 years. On the other, mangroves are being destroyed in some areas. Nature just needs to be left alone in order to thrive.”
He says, “Many well-meaning corporators are filling up portions of ponds for lawns and gardens but this lowers the carrying capacity of ponds. Many systematic encroachments are also taking place in both garden areas and water bodies. This should be prevented as the gardens in the city act as major sinks for different air pollutants while the water bodies prevent flooding. A variety of trees need to be planted to attract local wildlife, and to provide shelter to birds and insects”.
Priti Mandal, a social worker and environmentalist, says, “There is no proper vigilance squad in the city to catch hold of the culprits involved in cutting trees illegally. Moreover, the tree authority is also not keen in punishing the guilty. Whenever we have enquired from tree authority officials regarding showing us records on trees being cut legally and illegally during the past five years, they always say it will take some time as the records are dumped in some godown.”
—Jaspal Singh Naol and Rucha Kamat