Tuesday 10 March 2015

Falling Trees in Mumbai and a Strange Theory

Over the last few years there have been spate of tree falling incidents in Mumbai during the monsoons resulting in human loss or serious injury. Not that trees have never fallen before, it's just that the cases of people getting hit have increased.

A tree, as I have recently learnt from the TV series "Science of Stupid" is most likely to fall on the side that is the heaviest. Obviously, this would be the side it is leaning the most or where it has the maximum outward branches. It is difficult to say for a straight tree or one which is evenly balanced.

For those living in Mumbai, most trees are planted and grow on the outer edge of the pavement. Trees are sheltered by buildings on one side and are open to the road on the other. After watching this particular episode of Science of Stupid, I may have a theory, at least to explain partially, as to why trees are falling in this city during the monsoon.

Old timers may remember the days that Mumbai used to have double-decker buses plying on almost all roads. Since double-decker buses were prone to roof and upper deck damage by brushing against outward growing branches, the bus company would deploy a tree cutting bus that would cut off all those branches which were most likely to make contact with a double-decker bus. Now residents living in the buildings adjoining these trees would also complain to the municipal corporation of tree branches entering their houses causing rodents, pests and other creatures to enter their homes. After much follow up you would have a gang of wood cutters axing out some branches. The result would be an evenly growing tree.

The double-decker buses are now restricted to a few routes. The tree cutting buses are also missing. It is just the residents complaining and those branches entering people's houses are getting trimmed. Therefore you have a tree with branches extending only over the road, thereby increasing the chances of falling during the monsoon. Of course there are weak roots to blame due to dumping of cement concrete at the base by business owners wanting an increased frontage for their shops and windows.

Here are photos of a recent branch cutting activity which will support my theory. May not be applicable everywhere, but still worth considering.


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