Preserving existing trees

Considering the rate of urbanisation, it is imperative that stringent laws be formed and enforced in our cities to protect trees

January 28, 2022 06:12 pm | Updated 06:12 pm IST



When I look around the city and its outskirts, I see large plot layouts ready for sale but cleared of all vegetation, I suppose making it easier to be ‘developed’ or to be built upon. One of the first thoughts that comes to the minds of most plot owners is to clear all trees and vegetation on their plots so that they have a clean slate to build without any constraint.

It is unfortunate that trees have to be sacrificed in order accommodate our building and other infrastructure needs. With the growing pace of urbanisation, such clearing of plots will continue to happen without any consideration for the environment unless stringent laws and regulations are in place.

By now we should all be aware of the beneficial effects of trees and other vegetation especially in our urban areas. They not only provide shade and oxygen but also sequester carbon from the atmosphere reducing ambient air temperature and minimizing global warming. When trees are cut, this sequestered carbon is released back into the atmosphere contributing to increased emissions and global warming. Cutting of trees also results in habitat loss.

Permission required

According to the Indian Forest Act it is required to take permission to cut trees even within one’s premises. However, the act also leaves it up to each state to formulate its own rules and regulations against felling of trees. Some states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been progressive in implementing tree preservation acts and regulations.

The State of Maharashtra has recently amended its ‘Urban Areas Protection and Preservation of Trees Act’ to classify 50-year-old trees as heritage, tighten the rules for cutting of trees for development works and increase the number of trees to be planted in place of a cut tree. The planted trees need to be 6-8 feet in height and the survival of such trees should be ensured by geo-tagging.

Afforestation project

In Tamil Nadu, multiple environmentalists and non-governmental organisations have been trying to bring in stringent urban tree preservation policies. Recently the Tamil Nadu government had launched a very ambitious afforestation project to increase forest cover across the State by the year 2030. Such initiatives are good of course, but without stringent laws to protect our already existing tree cover that would have been formed over decades of growth, are of little value. Considering the rate of urbanisation, it is imperative that stringent laws be formed and enforced in our cities to comprehensively protect existing trees.

It is also equally important that plot developers and owners see existing trees as assets that result in increased land value. In fact, plots with existing trees should command a higher price than ones without, considering the benefits they bring such as improved ground water quality, better air quality, visual relief from the built urban scape and much needed shade, thereby resulting in enhanced quality of life for the occupants.

The writer is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm.

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