Monsoon notes on tree care

A tree branch recently fell on a car parked on a road in Shenoy Nagar. Photo : R. Ravindran  

Sabeena Varghese, a resident of South Avenue, Srinagar Colony, is fed up following up with the Greater Chennai Corporation about having the trees in her neighbourhood trimmed to keep them from blocking the street lights.

After repeated complaints, when the Corporation team did finally arrive at this neighbourhood in Saidapet, the results of the intervention were far from what Sabeena believes should have been done.

“They just cut the branches that they could reach and I was advised that if they had to bring the more appropriate machine with an electric saw mounted on a crane, I had to write to GCC, which I thought was ridiculous as the tree is not inside any compound but on the road,” says Sabeena, a school teacher.

Her point is that there obviously has to be more science attached to the process of tree-trimming than just lopping off branches within reach using a knife, as the Corporation workers did.

Following this fiasco, she sent a complaint by registered post to the GCC — Adyar zone, this time drawing attention to a neem tree outside her apartment premises that required immediate attention.

“I also mentioned that a mobile crane was required to cut the tree branches as it was hugely overgrown and was obstructing street lights,” says Sabeena.

A few others who have complained, either through the Corporation helpline number 1913 or by email, say the redressal mechanism relating to tree pruning and cutting leaves a lot to be desired.

A. Shyam Kumar from Anna Nagar has made many representations to the GCC through various mediums about a tree precariously leaning in front of a transformer near the premises of a play school.

“I have written to the GCC and the CM’s Cell but no action has been taken so far,” says Shyam Kumar.

With intermittent rains hitting the city, the Greater Chennai Corporation’s helpline number 1913 is also witnessing a spurt in calls, especially from residents who see trees pruned, says a Corporation official in-charge of parks.

The official says that most complaints are attended to, depending on the priority. “Complaints relating to tree fall are passed to the respective zones for speedy action and residents can follow up with the zonal officials,” the official adds.

However, tree activists point out that Chennai has a lot to learn from other cities on how to maintain and care for trees. Bengaluru is among those Indian metros that have a dedicated Tree Authority that attends to such complaints from citizens. It also provides an avenue for residents to alert the authorities about illegal felling of trees in a neighbourhood.

Tree audit postponed

Citizens can play a role in tree protection by carrying out an audit of vulnerable trees and getting the authorities to take corrective steps.

G. Mullaivanam, founder, Tree Bank, has postponed the Brown Tree project, an exercise he carries out once in five years to identify weak and dead trees in the city.

“We were supposed to take up the survey of unsafe trees in February-March but due to lockdown we could not assemble our volunteers, so we plan to take it up next year,” he says.


Tree fall and the question of accountability

The State and the local body can be held responsible if a tree found on public property falls and causes a fatal accident or injures a person walking or driving down the road.

The victim or the person’s family member can seek compensation by first lodging a complaint with the police, followed by written representation to the zonal officer and the area engineer of the Greater Chennai Corporation with sufficient proof of how the accident happened, says Somasundaram M of Consumer Association of India. The victim has to prove that the accident was not natural, and documental evidence like photographs or videos on what led to the accident will add merit to the case.

“If the affected party thinks there is delay or they are being denied justice, they can approach the District Consumer Forum. One does nor need an advocate to file a case here and the judgement must be given within 90 days,” says the consumer activist.

As per the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, he says, a person can appeal from any place for justice.

If a tree had fallen on a vehicle parked in a public space, the person is not liable for compensation from civic authorities, he says. “Corporation is responsible for maintenance of trees on roads as well as on platforms, and not if you have parked your vehicle at an unauthorised space including the road in front of your apartment,” he says.

Many victims seek insurance claims but that varies from company to company and the kind of insurance one is covered by.

Where to complain

* 1913

* Greater Chennai Corporation’s ‘Namma Chennai’ app

Monsoon helpline: 044-2538 4530/ 2538 4540

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 5:34:51 PM |

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