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Updated: January 20, 2014 14:36 IST

Saving wayside trees from hoardings menace

Krishnadas Rajagopal
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UNDER ASSAULT: An old tree at Palayam junction
continues to be used for displaying hoardings. Photo: K. Ragesh
The Hindu UNDER ASSAULT: An old tree at Palayam junction continues to be used for displaying hoardings. Photo: K. Ragesh

The government has issued an order, instructing local bodies to take stringent action against those who use trees in public places as advertisement space.

At the busy Palayam junction, among the criss-crossing electric lines and rough pavement, an old tree provides the only spot of shade in the afternoon sun.

Under this, a myriad crowd from cobblers to people who have just stepped out of the bus station with suitcases, catch a moment of rest before chinning up for the challenges of the teeming city.

But the old trunk has lost its magnificence. Its grizzled trunk bears the wounds of a thousand nails. Frayed nylon ropes of fallen hoardings line its branches. The slanting trunk has for years borne the burden of man’s efforts to use its body to sell his wares.

This is one among the many wayside trees, sporting rusty nails and choked by cement, which may benefit if the local bodies rise up to its task.

The government has issued an order, instructing local bodies to take stringent action against those who use trees in public places as advertisement space by nailing or tying hoardings and advertisement boards on them.

The order issued on January 2, 2014 cites a Kerala High Court judgment of December 2013 which says “local self-government institutions are instructed that permission shall not be issued for affixing or displaying hoarding or advertisement on trees either by using nails or any other form as trees are to be protected and the trees on public places are not intended to be used as display structures”.

This latest judgment revises the present standing instructions that trees can be used as advertisement space provided they are neither harmed nor injured.

But Kozhikode Corporation officials say illegal hoardings are coming up in the city everywhere. Most of them are nailed or tied onto trees late in the night. Political parties who use the Kozhikode beach use the trees there to tie hoardings and party flags.

“There is very little we can do with our limited resources though we have definite rules against using trees in public places as advertisement space,” an official, who did not want to be named, said.

“Legally, we consider a hoarding as a ‘structure.’ If it is to be installed in a public place, it can only be done after the Corporation gives permission and by payment of the necessary advertisement tax,” P.T. Abdul Latheef, Deputy Mayor and chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, said.

The wayside trees continue to be disfigured despite the district administration’s proposal, last year, to form special squads in Kozhikode, Koyilandy and Vadakara taluks to save the trees from nail assaults. The proposal, meant to be a joint mechanism of various departments including revenue, national highways and local bodies, is yet to take off.

As of now, the Corporation engages in sporadic activities to curb the hoarding menace – the last drive was in August 2013 – before the ardour fizzles out in a day or two.

The use of trees as advertisement space continues despite a recent direction by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to remove boards, nails, hooks, rods and advertisements from trees in public spaces. The tribunal had ordered de-choking of trees from cement.

It had also issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Human Resources Development and the Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation in this regard.

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