Tree transplant costs an arm and a leg

Mumbai: State authorities have assured that for every tree that is felled in Aarey to clear space for the proposed Metro 3 carshed, six saplings will be planted and 500 trees will be replanted, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has assured.

But tree transplantation costs an arm and a leg, as is evident from the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL)'s report prepared by its general consultant. It costs Rs 50,000 to transplant one tree, going by the report. So, if 1,072 trees are likely to be transplanted for the Metro 3 project, including for the controversial metro carshed in Aarey, the MMRCL will have to shell out a whopping Rs 5.36 crore. 

The cost of transplanting a tree depends on its girth. Since the average girth of a tree is 0.75 metres, this is the estimate used in the report to determine the cost. "Transplantation is including lead of 1.5 km with all tools, testing, man, machinery, necessary preparation and maintenance," the report states. Further, the report specifically mentions that usually after transplantation, there are chances of external infection to the tree which will then need maintenance for at least two-three months. Other measures include checking the condition of the soil at the site of the transplant. The soil is treated after a pit is dug. Root investigation of the transplant has to be carried out before the process along with other measures to ensure that the trees survive in their new home. 

According to environmentalist Stalin D, tree transplantation is a very specialised skill and he suggests, the government should send train its personnel in this skill. He feels the cost per transplant would be much higher than the estimated Rs 50,000. "Unfortunately, the way the authority is carrying out the transplantation has been a complete failure. This is what we witnessed when they replanted a few trees in Aarey and at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. These trees were in the way of the metro alignment. Transplanting a tree is like open-heart surgery, wherein a surgeon cannot afford to make mistakes. But here, under the guise of transplantation, they are just yanking out trees using heavy machinery and dumping the tree to another area and not bothering about it," he alleged. 

Activist Zoru Bhathena, who has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the Tree Authority's decision to cut more than 2,000 trees for the metro carshed in Aarey, remarked, "Despite spending taxpayer money, the authority is not carrying out the process of transplantation properly."