They Cut Down My Favourite Tree, So We Planted Over 100 More In Our Mumbai Suburb

That day I got home from work pretty late. There were a couple of men standing below my building. I was too tired to investigate further so I walked inside and decided to take the stairs as I had skipped the gym. Suddenly I looked towards my right and realised that something was amiss. I dropped my bag near the elevator and ran towards the back of our building premises. A small scream escaped me when I saw the remains of my beloved mango tree. The tree was chopped into pieces and the remains left there to rot.

I took my bag and ran upstairs, tears running down my cheeks. “Why? Why did they do this?,” I screamed, looking at my mother. My mother looked concerned but not shocked as she was expecting such a reaction from me.

The tree had been cut down because the majority of the residents of our society had complained that they couldn’t get in their vehicles easily because the tree blocked the path. The tree which had nourished us with its fruits and shade for so many years had been cut down in a single day.

Do we really ever get time to care and do something about things that matter to us? No. The only thing we end up doing is complaining about the circumstances without really bothering to get down and do something about it.

The next couple of days I was burrowed in my sorrow and clueless about what to do. My earlier attempts to meet the BMC Garden Chief had gone in vain with almost no support from them. The last three years had seen the fall of many old trees in our suburb. According to government regulations, the BMC is supposed to replace every fallen tree and is supposed to plant two trees for every tree that is chopped off. I did not see that happening and my efforts to make the BMC work bore no fruit.

Almost a month later, I was sitting with one of my friends while we discussed starting our own page on Facebook to get like-minded people together so that we could protect the green cover of our suburb. I do not know how but I guess it was our lucky day. We found a group on Facebook which was trying to do the same thing that we were trying and immediately contacted them. It turned out that there was a small group of people living in our suburb who were as passionate about trees as we were and they invited us to meet.

Our meeting turned into more meetings and plans. We chalked out a plan after doing a survey of streets near our homes and identified spots where we could plant trees. As the BMC wasn’t really bothered we submitted a letter to them stating the exact spots where we intended to plant and the trees that we had selected. We got the letter stamped from them and organised labourers to dig up holes. Soon after, we planted eight trees which were all native to India. We divided responsibilities and took care of them.

We created a WhatsApp group for more people to join us and soon our group grew. We had bigger plans as monsoon approached us. After a careful survey of the entire suburb, we identified more than 120 spots where trees could be planted. We wanted to plant 100 trees in a single day and also create awareness about the work we were doing and we wanted more people to join us.

We got holes dug before the D-day and saplings, soil and manure distributed to various team members. Each member was given the charge of several spots where they had to plant the trees. On June 5, 2017, which was World Environment Day we planted over 100 trees in our suburb. It was a day of hard work, smiles and lots of cheer.

Today, almost five months later our trees are flourishing. We have the support of more than 200 people. Tea sellers and shopkeepers have pledged their support to protect and grow the trees. Yes, there are still forces working against us but our resolve is stronger and our aim higher.

The group now regularly meets on weekends and we plant more trees and take care of the ones we have already planted.

While we will continue protesting against events such as the metro shed at Aarey and we are an active participant of Save Aarey, it is also necessary to keep acting. I knew that only complaining and protesting wasn’t going to bring about the change that I had always envisioned. We now make our own manure and grow saplings at home to later plant them outside.

I will always miss my mango tree but the incident taught me a lesson that definitely brought a change in my life.

Let us grow more trees and save our planet Earth.

Image source: Vidur Malhotra/ Flickr
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