Where has the green cover gone?

A grim reminder: This is what remains of a tree, which was chopped for construction work at Alwarpet. — Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

A grim reminder: This is what remains of a tree, which was chopped for construction work at Alwarpet. — Photo: K.V. Srinivasan  

Vani Doraisamy

CHENNAI: Is Chennai losing its green cover faster than it can be replaced? If one goes by what tree-lovers say, at least 50 full-grown avenue trees have fallen to axemen in the city in the past three months, most of them under the cover of night.

Most of them were felled as they obstructed the frontage of buildings under construction or hid hoardings from view.

The rapidly shrinking pavements and the lack of a scientific method of planting trees by the authorities are also to be blamed, green activists feel.

In Alwarpet alone, 20 trees were felled in just three months, according to P. Vijayabhaskar, former honorary tree warden.

At least 15 trees were done away with in Ayanavaram, 10 in Anna Nagar and 15 in T. Nagar, according to members of the Exnora Green Protection Council. While 40 per cent of these were full-grown trees, the rest were sub-adults.

Trees felled included peltoforum, ficus, neem, pungai and bauhinia (mandarai).

Until now, no FIR has been filed in any of the cases as the culprits remain unidentified. "The trees are done away with in different ways. Either they are hacked away leaving only a small portion of the trunk or their barks are stripped off leading to slow death or hot water is poured on the saplings till they suffocate and die," said R. Natarajan, honorary tree warden and former director of horticulture.

The Chennai Corporation's tree helpline (98403-50000) has processed very few complaints. While only two cases were reported from T. Nagar, there have been no recorded instances of illegal tree-felling in any of the other zones, which only meant that the trees were simply done away with without seeking the Corporation's approval.

No awareness

"While the authorities replaced concrete pavement slabs with granite, the roots were disturbed and no breathing space was allowed for the trunks, causing asphyxiation. The poor condition of the trees only made it easier for the miscreants," Mr. Natarajan said.

Corporation officials blame the lack of awareness on the part of the public.

"Whenever any instance was brought to our attention, the concerned zonal office was immediately alerted. But very often it was too late as the miscreants had escaped much before the act was discovered. However, there were also instances when we came to know of the crime only days later, making any kind of legal action impossible," a Corporation official said. With yet another Environment Day being observed on Sunday, the fate of the city's trees is not getting any better, activists say.

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