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Updated: June 24, 2013 10:53 IST

Choked by concrete, urban trees face slow death in Tamil Nadu

P. Oppili
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CUFF OF CONCRETE: A completely concretised base of Neem tree inside the Government Royapettah Hospital in Chennai. Photo: V. Ganesan
The Hindu
CUFF OF CONCRETE: A completely concretised base of Neem tree inside the Government Royapettah Hospital in Chennai. Photo: V. Ganesan

Little thoughtfulness while laying pavements can save them, feel activists

With the gusty winds visiting the State quite often during this time of the season, several trees dotting the pavement sway in menacing ways posing a grave danger to public safety.

In reality these trees are victims of negligence rather than guilty of endangering safety.

As the trees are choked off all around by concrete, many lean towards the road trying to stand on their roots which struggle to get water or air.

The pavements are laid leaving no space of water percolation or aeration to the roots, resulting in the slow death of the trees. Unable to balance their weight and suffocation such trees get uprooted in gusty winds easily.

Forest Department officials said that when they plant saplings, they ensure that ample space is provided around every sapling for the better survival and the growth. But, when the civic body authorities take up the work of concreting pavements, the first victim is the trees. Without understanding the importance of leaving enough space, they cover the tree base with concrete, leaving little gap for aeration or percolation of water to the roots.

One could see several trees in the city and the districts, which have been covered with concrete on their base.

Activists and tree lovers point out that the Forest Department spent huge money on planting saplings but poor maintenance mar the purpose.

A senior officer recalls that more than six years ago, an Urban Forestry Division was created in the Chennai Corporation with an object to protect the planted saplings. An Indian Forest Service officer was deputed to this division, who took up the work of identifying dead trees in both south and north Chennai. Even before the monsoon, slowly the authorities have felled dead trees, which posed grave danger to the road users.

Despite pressure on the urban space, internationally a radial area is created around a tree to enable them to grow. Neither the Forest Department nor the civic bodies in the State cared for providing space around the trees.

Actually, the State government in 2003 issued an order directing the Forest and Highways departments to ensure that the planted saplings or grown up trees should be provided space around their base for aeration and water percolation.

The order was implemented and subsequently it was not strictly followed by the authorities, activists pointed out.

D. Narasimhan, Associate Professor, Botany Department, Madras Christian College, who is also doing a tree census in the city, said mainly lack of coordination among the Chennai Corporation and the State Forest and Highways department led to the problem for trees.

Even while planning the relaying of pavements, the authorities concerned should ensure that a space is provided around the base of the tree.

Space for tree line

In his observation in Bangalore, the authorities have provided a space for the tree line alongside the pavement. This would help the trees to grow straight. This could be replicated in Tamil Nadu also and the officials should incorporate the provision of tree line while preparing to relay pavements, he added.


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I have personal experience for the neem tree planned in Ashok Nagar pavement.The nearby residental builders chop all the branches and it turned out to be a post & there is a danger of falling soon.

from:  K.Mohamed
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 15:06 IST

When will our country get the brains and be
sensitive to the environment! Where is Horticulture, Forest and Town Planning departments?

from:  Velumani
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 23:00 IST

When seeing the tree, my tears are dropping. It is almost binding a human being by chains, equivalent to slavery. I do not know how the civil engineers are not knowing about environment and environmental protection. Well, we need cemented places but not at the cost of a tree.

from:  Deva
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 21:09 IST

Illiterates know a lot about environment and preservation. It only the educated have little
knowledge about the environment and concerned more about real estate price.

from:  Senthil Natarajan
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 17:10 IST

Utter callousness or simply dumb? Even an illiterate would not do this.
quite saddened.

from:  Sivakumar Sambandan
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 14:01 IST

Trees need to be nurtured in any civilization by any means. Otherwise there is no life. Now a days roads are laid by cutting Lakhs and Lakhs of trees.

from:  Livi
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 12:45 IST

I wonder when the corporations of our country will get the brains and be
sensitive to the environment!
sad very very sad to read this.

from:  Vinod
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 12:41 IST

Are the PWD engineers that dumb?? It's the height of carelessness!

from:  Vinci
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 10:30 IST

Hon'ble Mayor and his team should save the plants and trees packed at
the roots with concrete mixture. When I pointed this awful mistake to
an engineer of MC he simple brushed aside my comments and said the trees
will not die (now!) May be later

from:  R S Naagarazan
Posted on: Jun 24, 2013 at 06:31 IST
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