Losing green canopy to development

‘Reserved sites can be used for planting saplings’

August 02, 2019 12:20 am | Updated 05:33 am IST

The State Highways Department plans to cut trees on Trichy Road in Coimbatore as part of flyover construction work.

The State Highways Department plans to cut trees on Trichy Road in Coimbatore as part of flyover construction work.

A rough estimate indicates that the city has lost about 3,000 trees to road development or widening projects in the last few years. As many as 48 trees on Trichy Road will be cut soon as part of the works for a flyover across Sungam junction. While the trees are brought down to facilitate development of better infrastructure for the city, there is a growing concern on the city losing its green canopy.

“The 48 trees on Trichy Road are only those that are located at the beginning and end of the flyover. According to road safety norms, trees should be 10 metres away from the road,” says an official of the Highways Department on why the trees need to be cut.

Meanwhile, there is a growing awareness among the residents on the need for a balance between development and conservation of environment.

According to architect P. Arun Prasad, in some places removing of trees is inevitable, when the road is widened, to facilitate safe movement of vehicles. However, there should be efforts to plant saplings for the trees cut. On roads widened within the city, certain varieties of trees can be planted on the median. This will also not interfere with the utility lines on the edge of the roads. While designing a project, additional area should be planned for wider medians to have trees. The space beneath the flyovers can also be converted into green spaces. The tenders should have provision for landscaping and beautification.

K. Kathirmathiyon, secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause, however, says there are agencies willing to take up greening of the empty space beneath the flyover at Gandhipuram too. But, maintaining these areas is the main challenge. The agencies should not use the space to advertise. Similarly, any greening or beautification effort should be according to the Indian Road Congress norms. The city wants roads and better infrastructure and the Highways Department’s focus is on such projects. While it can plant saplings, it will not be able to maintain the saplings or green areas, he says.

V. Easwaran, MDMK's youth wing leader, says he went to the court in 2013 after learning through RTI that the Highways Department (National Highways wing) had not planted saplings to compensate for the trees cut for various projects here. “We are following up with the Department regularly now. If there are proposals to cut trees for a project, the Department should immediately plan how it will plant saplings to compensate for the trees cut. These factors should be part of a project,” he says.

Vanitha Mohan, Managing Trustee of Siruthuli, adds that patches of greenery across the city will help improve the groundwater table, absorb rainwater, and provide the green space needed. There are several reserved sites and these can be used for planting saplings to compensate for the trees cut for road works. Saplings can be planted on either side of the railway track too. Further, when roads are widened, there should be space for storm water drains so that there is no flooding when there are heavy rains.

“It (planting of saplings and creating green space) is not just beautification. We sort out basic issues related to environment with it,” says Akash Hingorani of Oasis Designs, who has taken up lake rejuvenation project in Coimbatore.

Singapore has tree canopies on all roads. The more concrete surface there is in an urban environment, the night temperature goes up, etc. Cities such as New Delhi and Pune have streets with trees on either side. Bengaluru has vertical gardens on flyover columns and linear panels with plants. Creeper walls can also be created. it just has a chain-link fence and different varieties of creepers are allowed to grow on it.

What is important is the intent to create shade for better air quality, temperature control, etc. While road and flyover projects are taken up, those involved in urban landscaping should be involved. The cost involved for creating the required greenery is very less compared to the total project cost. However, it is an essential component, he says. “We are trying to promote ecological plans for cities. The aim is to save and regenerate the local environment.”

Apart from creating new green areas, the focus should also be on transplanting the existing trees when road works are taken up. The benefit of a tree that is 30 or 40 years old cannot be measured and the cost involved to protect it is worth the effort, he says.

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