‘Don’t let Chennai become Delhi’

The Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital boasts of an abundance of trees.

The Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital boasts of an abundance of trees.  

The Madras High Court on Monday strongly batted for saving the available Urban Green Regions (UGRs) in Chennai city. It impressed upon the need to avoid cutting trees and find alternative solutions such as utilising available vacant lands and demolishing dilapidated buildings to raise new vertical structures for developmental needs.

A Division Bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and R. Suresh Kumar directed the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital at Egmore here to find out if it was possible to avoid even transplantation of trees on its campus since there was no guarantee for the success of such transplantation.

Though the hospital reported that it had a proposal to transplant 14 big and old trees, apart from 27 small trees, for the construction of a building with a plinth area of 33,520 square feet, the judges asked it to ascertain by Wednesday if it would be possible to construct on a vacant land identified by public interest litigant Capt. P.B. Narayanan. Even if the building could not be constructed on the alternative site, the transplantation should be carried out first on an experimental basis before removing all 41 trees, the judges pointed out. They did not want Chennai to become like the national capital Delhi which was now suffering due to lack of green cover and consequent pollution.

Claiming that tamarind and peepal trees would not survive transplantation, the petitioner relied upon an opinion obtained from botanist D. Narasimhan to put forward his assertion that the only solution was to construct the new building at an alternative vacant site available within the campus.

In his opinion, the botanist had stated that existing UGRs such as Open Space Reserves, parks and wetlands in Chennai city had reduced in the last two decades due to increased pressure on land for various developmental needs. Coupled with it, the increase in vehicular pollution had brought down the environmental quality of the city.

“As a result, environment of Chennai is facing an acute stress. Currently, the UGRs exist only in institutions especially in public institutions. We have no option other than conserving them. Tropical trees play a crucial role in sequestering carbondioxide emitted due to loss of green regions and pollution from burning of fossil fuels. The place where the expansion is planned within eye hospital, has old trees, at 50 to 60 years old which are not amenable for transplanting,” Mr. Narasimhan.

“Egmore is quite unique in having places of historic importance with a reasonable green cover. It is essential to safeguard the environmental quality.” he added.

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