How a group of housewives prevented Mumbai civic body from cutting 313 trees

The women visited BMC offices, spoke to contractors and also asked members of the neighbouring Naval Housing Colony to join the fight.

Updated: Sep 09, 2018 02:39:16

By Steffy Thevar

Uma Venkat removes an advertisement stapled to a tree on LBS Marg, Kanjurmarg. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)

Taking time out from their daily responsibilities, seven middle-aged women were able to save 313 trees on LBS Marg in Kanjurmarg from the civic body’s axe.

The repeated efforts of these women forced BMC to back track on its proposal to slaughter trees for storm water drains works on the 6.1km stretch of LBS marg from Vikhroli to Bhandup.These women, who are homemakers, were at one point working professionals, and came together and raised objections to the civic body’s plan to axe the trees for a work that was already over.

The women, Uma Venkat, Neera Tilak, Snehal Basrur, Bindu Padmakumar, Aarti Chhibber, Prashanti Garga and Carolien Klep, decided to take on the administration when they found out that the trees they loved so much might be chopped for no reason.

Uma Venkat, 53, says as she plucks out the stapled ads pinned on the trees along the road, “It is cruel that people would just nail or staple trees, after all they are also living beings. Trees are pierced with nails not just for ads but also for public utilities”.

“When I first read about the tree cutting proposal, I knew I had to stop this,” adds Venkat, a former railway employee who currently teaches Carnatic music. “Since childhood, we had seen these trees grow along with us and many of them have been planted by our parents and neighbours. The news article (by HT) gave us direction on how to go about the plan to save trees.”

After reading the HT article on August 6 about BMC’s plan to chop down 383 trees of which 313 were on LBS Marg, Uma went to the garden department at Byculla on August 8, where she came into contact with the other women who had the same urge to save trees as she did. From there on, they struck up a friendship.They visited BMC offices, spoke to contractors and also asked the neighbouring Naval Housing Colony members to join the fight. Padmakumar, 45, a former finance professional, says, “We asked the Navy officials to speak to the BMC to go back on their plan because the work for which the trees were proposed to be cut was already over.”

During their fight to save the trees, the women also made a video to spread the word on social media and spoke to people living along the road to support the cause. Klep, 42, who is originally from the Netherlands and married to an Indian, says, “It is good that we all came together as there is no personal motive here but only love for trees. The BMC officials have also been co-operative and we have now understood the process that will help us spread this message to others too who indeed want to save trees but do not know how to go about it”.

“I think Mumbaiites owe a lot to these trees, which are highly underestimated and it is time we repay them by saving them from being chopped down,” adds Klep, who is an interaction designer for sustainability.

First Published: Sep 09, 2018 02:38:32


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