The Karma Warrior for the month of February 2019 is a man who has made it his mission to save the trees of his beloved city – Zoru Bhathena.
Over the past decade, the earth has witnessed erratic weather patterns. From the El Nino wrecking havoc to the polar vortex sending parts of North America into deep freeze, climate change is a chilling reality.
From the gross misuse of the limited natural resources to the indiscriminate cutting down of trees, mankind has a huge role to play in the slow death of the planet it inhabits.
Deforestation is an important factor in global climate change.
Trees are vital for life, home to millions of species, they protect soil from erosion, produce oxygen, store carbon dioxide, and help control climate. Forests are also vital for us to live as they provide us with food, shelter and medicines as well as many other useful things. They also purify the air we breathe and water that we need to survive. Deforestation by humans is causing all of these necessary functions to be lessened, and hence damaging the atmosphere even further.
One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.
Unfortunately, as cities cope with an increasing population and their needs, stripping cities of their tree cover has become a common occurrence. Mumbai is a case in point.
Zoru first noticed that an alarming number of trees were being cut by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation around 2-3 years ago. Concerned, he filed a PIL to find that approx. 2000 rain trees had been cut due to a mealy pest that had infected them. Due to the gross negligence on the part of the authorities, the infection was not contained and spread quickly. It worried him deeply and he decided to do his part is saving the tree cover in Mumbai.
He researched and found that the Tree Act of 1975 made it mandatory for trees to be planted on road sides, in open and public spaces, on the banks of every river. However, the trees that were mandated to be planted and protected were being cut down furiously to make way for more buildings, roads, electricity and mobile towers and rail projects.
The BMC is made up of many departments including the road and tree department. Before the road department cuts down trees, it has to seek the permission of the tree department which has to allow or deny them the request. Once the request is allowed, the BMC issues a public notice before cutting down trees. These notices appear in many newspapers and most of us never pay much attention to them. The people who have an objection to the cutting down of the trees, can email, write a letter or appear in person to convey their objection.
Zoru has taken it upon himself to scan these newspapers everyday and protest what he sees as the unnecessary cutting down of trees. He says that he realises that in some instances, it is necessary to cut trees; and he has no objection to them being transplated where possible, however he is against cutting down trees when it’s avoidable. As he says, “Cutting a 50-100 year old tree just because you can, is a senseless act.”
To highlight this issue of unnecessary tree cutting for the Mumbai metro project, Zoru and a group of concerned citizens held a symbolic funeral where they carried a cut tree on their shoulders to protest the unnecessary cutting down of Mumbai’s tree cover. Their protest was to raise awareness amongst the community as well to highlight the negligence of governmental authorities meant to protect Mumbai’s dwindling green cover.
He is now working diligently to protect the unnecessary killing of trees for the Metro Project and is also actively involved with the “Save Aarey Forest” movement.
In a judgement, the Honorable Bombay High Court observed that trees are as vital to the city as the Metro project, and directed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to hire or buy equipment to scientifically transplant and geo-tag trees.
Let’s help Zoru and citizens like him who are making an effort to save our green cover. Not only is planting and helping grow plants and trees necessary to reverse the ill effects of climate change, it is also has great karmic benefits. As Zoru and his band of karmic warriors fight for the trees that make your towns and cities more liveable, let us also do our bit in helping further the cause of saving the planet we live in.