Delhi

Conservation - Green is our heritage

NO CHECKS ON CHOPPING: Labourers indiscriminately cut down trees in a residential neighbourhood.

NO CHECKS ON CHOPPING: Labourers indiscriminately cut down trees in a residential neighbourhood.   | Photo Credit: de28 1947_1

Across many colonies in Delhi that house some of the Capital's very old trees, one can often spot isolated “crying” trees, ruined by human action. Some have their branches mercilessly chopped off, while a few of them are almost reduced to dead structures.

Officials in the forest division admit that many pleas for pruning trees are received during the winter months as residents complain of receiving insufficient sunlight. The Delhi Tree Preservation Act, 1994, however, does not allow cutting of a tree for reasons other than when it poses a threat to life and property, parts of it are dead, diseased, or have been damaged by any natural act such as rain or lightening, or the tree has lived its full life.

In East Kidwai Nagar – one of the prominent government colonies – a tug-of-war has been going on over a few trees for the past many months. While the ground floor residents have received legal permission from the Environment Secretary to prune around six trees in their vicinity, a top floor resident has appealed against the order. “Not getting enough sunlight cannot be a valid reason for pruning a tree. Secondly, the order clearly mentions that only “appropriate pruning” must be done under “expert supervision”, both of which are absent in this case,” the resident says, pointing to the neem tree outside, the branches of which were lopped off just a few days ago.

She adds: “The trees here are ‘heritage trees', some of them even 70 years old, as revealed by an NGO's survey. I don't think any of us who are allotted these houses for a few years have a right to damage them.”

Tree lovers in the city complain that while the Delhi Government has been launching and publicising drives to increase the green cover in the city, government officials themselves are not doing enough to protect the existing trees. “The problem is that most citizens and government officials are unaware of the effect the act of unguided pruning has on trees. Pruning is done to encourage proper growth of a tree and refers to tweaking of dead parts. But if you cut full branches, a tree's health is affected. Trees such as gulmohar may not even grow back,” says Prabhakar Rao of Kalpavriksh, an environment organisation in Delhi.

Strongly recommending expert supervision during such procedures, he explains that unguided pruning may affect a tree's chemistry and its root-shoot ratio. Also, as a tree is home to birds and other creatures, its felling or cutting hits many other cycles in nature.

A senior official in the forest division admits that often such pruning is done in the absence of an expert.

Padmavati Dwivedi who runs Compassionate Living says, “It is actually the residents who take law into their hands. Even when government departments do not sanction permission, residents simply go ahead with lopping off branches, even trees on their own. There is no survey of the place to prevent this because the forest department is reeling under acute shortage of field staff. There is an urgent need to educate the public on the need to preserve trees.”

Environmentalists feel that the one way to deter public and government authorities is by strengthening the Delhi Tree Preservation Act. They also demand better representation of civil society in framing of policies and programmes to protect the green cover.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 3:55:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/Conservation-Green-is-our-heritage/article13384754.ece

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