You can see any number of trees being slowly strangulated by rings of concrete or designer tiles along Delhi roads. Leaving open spaces around tree trunks benefits only trees, filling up the gaps helps the contractor

Till a few decades ago most Delhi roads did not have footpaths. In fact the level of the strips flanking the roads and meant for pedestrians was a trifle lower than the level of most roads and it did not bother too many people, because there wasn't too much traffic on the roads. Things began to change rapidly in the early Eighties, the arrival of Maruti cars in 1983 led to an explosion in the number of cars all over the country and most specifically in Delhi.

People in New Delhi began to experience traffic jams, a phenomenon that they associated only with Bombay and Calcutta and with Sadar Bazar and the narrow streets of the old city. A desperate situation calls for desperate measures and Delhi was not short of knee jerk reactions and quick fix solutions. The need to come up with quick solutions was felt all the more acutely because a series of events, some a little before the arrival of the automobile boom and some close on its heels required Delhi to be presented in a crisp uniform with tie in place, shoes shining and laces tied up in neat bows.

The World Trade Fair in 1981, the Asian Games in 1982, the Non Aligned Summit in 1983, UNCTAD Conference in 1986 combined to create the Delhi of flyovers and subways that we see all over the city today. The building of flyovers and subways continues unabated gathering momentum and finding excuses for more such structures the moment another event, like the Common Wealth Games, looms across the horizon.

A precondition for building flyovers and subways is the widening of roads -- the existing width is invariably taken up by the flyover, the temporary roads built for traffic while the flyover is being built later turn into slip roads. All this is fine and this is what happens all over the world, but what happens to the pavements and, more importantly, what happens to the trees that were planted when the earlier road was built decades ago?

Despite environmentalists raising the issue time and again and despite several clear cut judicial directions outlining the space that needs to be left open for trees on pavements, the agencies charged with the responsibility of looking after roads and tree planting, continue to ignore these concerns. The judicial directions are constantly ignored, except for a small area in the New Delhi District. Is it possible that the directions, for leaving enough space around the tree trunk to allow roots to breath and rain water to reach them, are followed in letter and spirit in New Delhi because it is here that the justices are likely to notice violations of their orders while driving to and from the courts.

You can see any number of trees being slowly strangulated by rings of concrete or designer tiles along Aurobindo Marg – opposite Azad Apartments, along Jamal Nasir Marg -- opposite the IIT, along Ho Chi Minh Marg - opposite Swami Nagar, Panchsheel Enclave, along Mathura Road -- specifically opposite the Central Road Research Institute and right in the heart of New Delhi at Subramania Bharathi Marg.

Leaving open spaces around tree trunks benefits only trees, filling up the gaps helps the contractor. Trees cannot be made to pay illegal gratification; builders are keen to do so. In any case trees are worth anything only when they die and turn to wood.

Keywords: treepavementsdelhi

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