Chennai

When trees felt unsafe in their ‘own home’

Earlier this week, an ambitious river restoration project was at loggerheads with a sustained community-driven tree-planting initiative in Kotturpuram. A patch was cleared of its greenery that had been nurtured over the years by volunteers and residents. The Hindu Downtown estimates the damage

The irony can’t be more poignant. At a space reserved specially for letting trees achieve their fullest potential and showcasing what they have to offer, trees were made to feel unwanted and worthless.

As is known widely now, on Tuesday evening, many trees and shrubs at the Kotturpuram Tree Park were bulldozed on account of a development work.

The work had to do with the strengthening of bunds along the Adyar Estuary which is cheek by jowl with the Tree Park maintained by the NGO Nizhal. The Water Resources Department, an arm of the Public Works Department (PWD), was carrying out the exercise.

The exercise is part of larger, ambitious project being executed by PWD in collaboration with the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT).

When The Hindu Downtown got in touch with a PWD assistant engineer who is the site supervisor for this particular project, he said the trees would be planted to make up for the loss.

The question to be asked is: How many years would it take to truly recreate that particular patch along the Estuary, in all its bio-diversity.

Here are two answers.

T.D. Babu,

trustee, Nizhal

“They have not just cleared the trees, but also damaged a habitat for many fauna. On this section, rat snake, cobra and green snake are found in great numbers; so are mongooses. This patch is part of an elaborately-created urban forest. Everything grows in a spacious area, so that every tree grows true to its individual profile, as there are little competing factors at play. It is easy to walk through this urban forest. We recently had a butterfly walk at this patch. Across the Tree Park, 90 species of butterflies have been identified. The trees have been a bio-shield for the river bank. They provide strength to the bunds, which was evident during the 2015 floods. The trash carried by the gushing waters was held in check by this “bio-fence’ and prevented from entering the Adyar estuary. And to think that the trees were removed for an exerice meant to strengthen the bunds!”

Shobha Menon,

founder—trustee, Nizhal

“We are saddened by this move by the PWD in collaboration with CRRT, as it has resulted in considerable damage to the greenery. The exercise has caused the destruction of many species of trees and plants, which include kokottai (garcinia spicata), kumizh (gmelina arborea), azhiniji (alangium salvifolium), asoka (saraca asoca), vennangu (pterospermum canescens), suryagada (suregada augustifolia), kalvirasu (ehretia laevis), and uvamaram (dillenia indica). They were many herbs on the patch that have been destroyed. It would attract sunbirds and weaverbirds: They had colonising the green patch in large numbers and now lost their home. It has also been a blow to a community-driven initiative as Nizhal created this Tree Park with the involvement of volunteers as well residents of Chennai.”

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 7:46:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/when-trees-felt-unsafe-in-their-own-home/article29786334.ece

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