Mumbai Climate Action Plan: City lost 2,028 hectares of urban tree cover in 5 years, says study

Many areas like Dadar, Elphinstone, Sandhurst Road, Andheri and Dahisar in Mumbai have lost maximum urban tree cover density in the past five years, states the recently unveiled Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP). Urban tree cover is defined as collection of trees that grow within a city.

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The report mentions that between 2016 and 2021, Mumbai lost 2,028 hectares of urban tree cover that is equal to the size of about one-and-a-half Aarey Milk Colony which is spread on 1,300 hectares. This loss has contributed to emission of 19,640.9 tonnes of CO2 per year.

According to the climate action plan, large parts of central and western Mumbai have seen the highest decrease in tree cover. The tree cover density went down by nearly 2% in Dadar Plaza & Elphinstone, 1.6% in Kandivali, Sandhurst Road and Dahisar and 1.4 % in Andheri and Byculla from 2016 to 2021. In eastern suburbs, Bhandup lost 1.3 % while 1% decrease was found in Chembur and Kurla. The data was prepared by World Resource Institutes (WRI) India which is assisting BMC on a climate action plan by using iTree Canopy, a tool that helps in aerial imagery to map out the green cover.

BMC officials from the BMC said the areas that have lost tree cover are those who have seen rapid transformation in terms of development of Mill lands, redevelopment of old chawls and slums along with new constructions in the past five to ten years. “Dadar, Parel, Elphinstone and Byculla had old chawls and also large parts of Mill lands. Now there have been new residential and commercial towers or shopping malls in these areas. The urbanisation has led to loss of more trees in these areas,” said an official from BMC’s Garden department.

As per the tree census, Mumbai has 29.74 lakh trees. However, in the past few years, Mumbai has seen cutting of thousands of trees due to development projects every year. In February 2020, the then Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi in his budget speech had officially admitted that the BMC had sanctioned proposals to cut over 25,000 trees for various development projects in Mumbai.

In November, 2021, as per the reply to an RTI application filed by BJP MLA Ameet Satam, between February 2010 and February 2021, BMC’s Tree Authority had approved proposals to cut and transplant 75,116 trees. Out of this, 38,999 were cut and 36,117 trees were transplanted.

Priya Narayanan, Programme Manager with WRI India, said the loss of tree cover would result in decrease in urban heat resilience and floods. “For the long term goal of doing tree-based interventions is basically an adaptation to climate change. The immediate thing as mitigation will be modulating local temperature and providing hydrology for improving flood resilience. From ten years now, the increase in green cover will also create a carbon sink. Roughly 2,000 hectares of tree cover is lost which means there will be increase in localised heat,” Narayanan told The Indian Express.

Earlier, studies had also shown that the areas with less green covers and more concretisation are warmer than other parts of the city with increase in extreme heat waves. The climate action plan documents show that apart from the city’s tree cover, in the past six years, 60 hectares of mangroves and 54 hectares of trees in forest areas (Aarey Milk Colony and Sanjay Gandhi National Park) have been lost. According to The Climate and Land Use Assessment (CLUA), the loss of green cover (mangroves, forest and trees outside forest) contributed to emission of 22,280 tonnes of CO2 per year in the city.

Jeetendra Pardeshi, Superintendent of Gardens, said that considering rapid urbanisation, the civic body has come up with vertical and terrace garden concepts.

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