Complaints received of at least 16 trees felled across campuses in past 7 months

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the area of environment conservation have received complaints of at least 16 trees felled across college campuses in the city in the last seven months.

“We receive at least two complaints every month from residents or students, regarding felling of trees. We are able to save only a few as the cutting is done discreetly and fast,” G. Mullaivanam, founder, Tree Bank, said. Recent complaints, he added, had come from students of Presidency College, Pachaiyappa’s College and Anna University.

In August this year, a banyan tree, over 100 years old, on the Presidency College campus was vandalised and now faces the threat of being axed by authorities. Students of Pachaiyappa’s College said at least 32 trees, many of which were at least 100 years old, have been cut for the Metro Rail project and building new laboratories. Last week, students of Ethiraj College took to social media to save a tree from being felled.

R. Sudha, alumnus, Stanley Medical College, says many trees were felled on that campus too. “Around 70 years old, they were cut down in 2007, thus giving the college a bland look,” she said.

Officials of these colleges said cutting of some trees was inevitable during the process of setting up facilities such as laboratories, benches and toilets. “Also, there is a severe dearth of workers on campuses to maintain these trees,” said a member of Pachiayappa’s trust. 

 According to Mr. Mullaivanam, Ashoka and banyan trees were among those felled most commonly in colleges. “The managements may plant saplings to compensate for the loss but it will never be the same. We are asking for letters from heads of institutions, committing to maintenance of the saplings they grow to compensate for the felled trees,” he said.

College managements, according to M.B. Nirmal, founder, Exnora International, cut trees to solve simple problems such as roots growing inside rooms, to prevent infestation of snakes or insects, and even for vaastu. “Though there is a rule that 50 trees should be planted for every felled tree, there is no way to check if it is followed,” he said. The government should record and publish details of every tree felled in the city and the compensation put in pace, he added.

Shobha Menon of Nizhal, an NGO that spreads awareness on trees, said it was time the State implemented the Tree Protection Act in entirety. “States such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi and many others have had this Act for decades. It was announced last year in Tamil Nadu, but is yet to be implemented.”

The Act makes it mandatory for private managements to seek official permission from the forest department for cutting, lopping, removing and disposing of felled trees.