Tree transplantation: A farce? Sunday, 28 June 2015 - 7:45am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna | From the print edition Pooja Patel (/authors/pooja- patel)
The government may claim to have ensured sustainable development by transplanting trees successfully but the reality is quite different with a survival rate of less than 10 percent for relocated trees, environmental activists tell Pooja Patel
A banyan tree being transplanted in a new location by civic officials There is a lot said about tree transplantation drives by government bodies as a way of compensating for trees (/topic/trees) uprooted during developmental projects. But does this really happen, and if it does, do these trees survive? The government doesn't have a legitimate database to record the success or failure rate of such drives. Neither do authorities have set guidelines for the process. Most activists agree that the government has failed and that the survival rate of transplanted trees is abysmal. "The survival rate of trees that are transplanted in Mumbai is only 2 per cent as this is a very complicated procedure. Just look at the 600 trees that were transplanted to Aarey by Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority while developing the JVLR road. None of the trees survived," said environmental activist D. Stalin.
Funds are an issue too "The entire process of transplantation can cost around Rs1.5 lakh. However, the authorities pay a meagre amount of Rs25,000 to the
67 FLOORS OF L I V I N G contractors, who simply uproot them and put it someplace else and water it for a month, only to forget about it later," Stalin added. sdcorp.in/Official-site Award-winning environmentalist Sumaira Abdulali said she had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the BMC a few years ago. Starting from 1.55 Cr*, Mumbai "BMC didn't have a database that recorded the number of trees transplanted, survival rate and its monitoring details. According to the A Shapoorji Pallonji project law, cutting trees is not allowed for a development plan unless there are plans to plant trees elsewhere." Authorities have, for the last decade, been claiming that they have been transplanting trees successfully and ensuring sustainable development. The ground reality, of course, proves otherwise. "The authorities have been fooling people in the name of development and tree transplantation. For this procedure, ecologists, botanists and environmentalists are required. None of these professionals are part of the sanctioning board of the state, which approves tree transplantation," said Stalin. According to naturalist Shardul Bajikar, "Tree transplantation if done following proper procedures, is a very sensitive process. I am seriously doubtful if proper procedures are followed here in India. There are many dos and don'ts that need to be considered while transplanting trees, and it is a skilled man's job. Apart from this, various precautions need to be taken post tree transplantation. From what we have in front of us, the survival rate of tree that are transplanted in our region is well below 10 per cent. And yet, you have people claiming transplantation to be a major solution." How's tree transplantation really done? Dr. Usha Mukundan, botanist and principal of Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College, explains the procedure: "Tree transplantation is a technical procedure for uprooting a tree from its original site to a new site, nearby or in a different location. It requires planning, engineering techniques and resources to successfully transplant a mature tree. Before transplantation, the physiological status of the tree should be ascertained in terms of its health, being disease-free and age. The new site where the tree would be transplanted should be prepared before uprooting the tree from its original location. A tree is a living organism and so, this procedure requires utmost care. The roots of mature trees spread, covering a large area around it, so this area should be demarcated. The removal of soil around this area should be done carefully so as to bring about minimum damage to the root ball. It should be protected and held in place carefully so that the entire root ball can be sunk into the new pit. The soil in the new location should be well-aerated for the tree to acclimatise to its new surroundings. The aerial branches should not be trimmed heavily as the tree would need adequate food for survival, which the leaves would make. The success of the transplantation would depend on the precision of uprooting the tree from its original location to the new location with love and care and always keeping in mind the tree is being relocated from a region where it has spent several years and made friends in terms of compatibility with trees growing nearby and over a period of time, enriched the soil with rich microflora in its rhizosphere. So transplant trees if there is no other option, but do it very gently, with the precision of a surgeon."