Earlier this year, Mumbai’s municipal body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), proudly announced that it would use GPS technology to conduct a survey of the city’s trees. The plan was to identify all trees by their GPS location. Each tree was to be identified by its biological name, girth, height, life expectancy and a photograph. This information would be available to anyone on the internet. Besides tracking the health of trees, it would also help in checking illegal felling. The survey was to start in June and be completed in about eight months.
However, not only is the survey yet to begin, the BMC has not even awarded the contract for it. To begin with, it suddenly realised that June is monsoon time in Mumbai, and the tender was finally floated in October. But the tender had to be floated again on 13 December because, as the BMC claims, only one firm bid for the project.
However, according to parties who had tried to bid in October, the BMC conducted the bidding process shoddily and seemed to tweak rules to favour one particular company. They claim that, in fact, around 20 firms had participated in October. Punit Gandhi, co-founder of Eco Basics, a company that wanted to bid for the tree census, says, “While there was no mention of it in the advertisement, only after we bid for the project were we told that only bidders who have prior experience in conducting tree censuses with government bodies and who have an annual turnover of at least Rs 60 lakh would be considered. There is only one such firm in Mumbai, Terracon, that satisfies these criteria.”
Santosh Yadav, a botanist, who along with St Xavier’s College wanted to bid for the project, claims that the BMC misdirected them. “We were told to submit our bids at a counter in the BMC. When we reached the venue, we were informed that we had to do it online… [but] the website did not work,” he says. Jitender Pardesi, the deputy tree officer of BMC’s western suburbs who was in charge of the project, refuses to comment.▪