Google the word ‘Development’ and this is what the website says: the process of being developed. Sounds vague? Precisely the point.

Development is a vague term. But nonetheless an over used phrase. A word used every time a government launches a new scheme. Linking rivers- development! Building bridges- development! So on and so forth.

So when the living conditions of the 9680 residents of the BDD Chawl in Worli grew from worse to pathetic, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority came up with a- you guessed it- ‘Development’ plan. Plan was simple: build 87 buildings. The only catch was this 11,744 crore project will impact 625 trees in the chawl complex. MHADA proposes to cut down 253 trees and transplant 372 trees to another area.

NewsCaravan visited the Chawl Complex located in Mumbai’s Worli area to see the living conditions in the region. Sadly, the chawl is filthy and the houses are dilapidated. Many need urgent repair or evacuation of its occupants.

People belong to the lower income strata and many houses were crammed. People had no place to stay let alone have furniture or other amenities.

Worli, Mumbai
Dilapidated Houses at the Chawl

However, what really got the attention of our team were the trees that could be chopped. Now these trees are massive, some clearly over 60-70 feet and may easily be in the age group of 15-25 years or above (rough estimate). If the government aims to cut down these trees, then it will purely be a disaster.

Remember trees are the lungs of the nature. Cutting down 253 trees will not just act as a disaster for the air purification, but will also impact the water logging crisis in Worli as the roots of these trees help in prevention of soil erosion. This will also reduce the green cover in the city.

Transplanting trees is no easy task, firstly trees have deep roots so uprooting over 300 trees will not be simple. Secondly, where do to the authorities plan to transplant these trees given the fact that Mumbai has no space. Thirdly transplanting trees have low success rate, many doubt if all the trees will survive the operation.

We spoke to a few residents of the city, who quite naturally were enraged about this move.

However Mumbai Board’s Chief Officer Depeendra Khushwaha while speaking to media clarified that no tree would be cut unnecessarily. There was no clarification from his end on how trees could be classified as necessary or unnecessary.

MHADA aims at ‘development’ of the chawl. But, the real problem at hand is fairly simple: will nature have to pay the price of this ill conceived development or will MHADA scrap this plan and opt for a sustainable idea?

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