Trees blocking billboards are felled; saplings run over by vehicles

In their drive to convert barren roadsides into tree-lined avenues and arrange for water during the dry seasons, the government and environmentally-conscious citizens are facing a major hurdle — the callous attitude of citizens.

Newly planted saplings – and the Forest Department here has planted around 13,200 saplings this year, along with about 10,000 saplings in the preceding years – need to be watered during the dry seasons when they are the most vulnerable.

However, department officials said the State rules allocated them funds to only water twice in the five months after the rains. For 200 trees, the department can spend Rs. 57,000 or around Rs. 285 per tree. An official pointed out that private companies plant and maintain trees spending around Rs. 1,500 a tree.

The department has so far managed this by moving around funds, or by approaching private sources, but a long-term solution has to be worked out at the state policy level, said a forest officer.

Human interference

Apart from this, new saplings wither away or are plucked by people. Officials said commercial establishments often object to planting of trees or rampantly cut trees if it blocks their shops, or reduced their parking space. “People here lack seriousness as they do not see a long-term benefit,” he said.

Jeet Milan Roche, who organises mass sapling planting projects, testifies to apathy of citizens that see many saplings wither away.

In June last year, his team lined the 1.5-km stretch on National Highway 66 between Nantoor and Karnataka Polytechnic with over 600 saplings. This was no easy feat, as more than a week was spent clearing debris, garbage, and even human refuse that were strewn along the highway.

Seven months later, the debris are back, strangling the saplings with concrete or tar debris. Shockingly, around 60 trees were cut as they were blocking the view of billboards in Padua, a further nine plants died near the Skating Rink after a fire from a garbage pile spread, and a few more coming under the wheels of trucks attempting to park, he said.

“In three years, the row of trees would have really added life to the stretch. It is sad that no one seems to have any concern,” he said.

A similar fate is met for around 500 saplings out of the around 5,000 saplings planted in Nandigudda, which also succumbed to garbage fire, while plantations along National Highway 75 between Mangalore and B.C. Road are most damaged in Padil and Maroli.

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