On Might 6, a towering Neem tree on central Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg fell lifeless. This piece of Delhi’s historical past, which was planted in the course of the British rule, was estimated to be practically 90 years previous and had a girth of 1.eight metres. Within the municipal survey report, the reason for the dying was merely recognized as “hollowness”.
In response to New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) information accessed by HT, 1,475 timber have fallen, or dried up and died, or been minimize down for building actions between 2015 and July Three this yr. Other than ageing, specialists blame concretisation and digging of trenches to put underground cables for the tree deaths, which they are saying is inflicting large ecological harm.
Environmental activists and specialists say that regardless of a 2013 Nationwide Inexperienced Tribunal (NGT) order putting a ban on building anyplace inside a one-metre radius of a tree trunk, such actions proceed. Frequent soil digging to put underground cables — which causes extreme harm to roots of timber — and the reducing of the water desk , which dries out the tap-root , are additionally causes behind tree deaths, in response to the specialists.
In Lutyens’ Delhi, the avenue timber which have fallen in about five-and-a-half years embrace pilkhan timber on Dr Zakir Hussain Marg; neem timber on Abdul Kalam Highway and Prithviraj Highway; and imli (tamarind) timber on Tilak Marg and Akbar Highway. Almost 30% of those timber have been “heritage timber” that have been over 100 years previous. The others have been planted between 1920 and 1935 in the course of the building of Lutyens’ Delhi.
Starting 1912, British planners and arboriculturists planted a particular number of tree on every avenue. For instance, neem timber have been planted on Shahjahan Highway and Abdul Kalam Highway, amongst others, and jamun on Ashoka Highway and Rajpath.
Creator and environmentalist Pradip Krishen mentioned timber within the Lutyens’ zone not solely have ecological worth however are additionally traditionally necessary.
“Though NDMC is now planting the second line of timber in these avenues, it’s no excuse to not care for the older timber. It should take these new timber years to achieve sufficient peak and girth to supply the advantages that the older ones are offering,” Krishen mentioned.
He added: “The lack of any tree is dangerous information for us, however these timber carry a whole lot of historical past with them. Every number of timber was chosen for every avenue holding the aesthetics and its environment in thoughts. These are part of the Capital’s historical past, and horticulture departments should have the great sense to protect it.”
Knowledge exhibits that this yr alone, 41 timber died within the NDMC space as a result of numerous causes corresponding to harm to roots, hollowness, and storms. In 2019, a complete of 229 timber died. Out of them, 50 have been uprooted and 172 dried up. Two have been minimize for building work and 5 have been minimize as a result of they have been categorised as “harmful”. This yr, NDMC has set a goal of planting 5,116 timber. In 2019, the company planted practically 10,000 timber. Nonetheless, the survival fee of saplings on this space is 50-60%.
Throughout an inspection performed in 1999 to establish the explanation behind the excessive mortality of Imli timber on Tilak Marg and Akbar Highway, a multi-disciplinary crew comprising members from the Dehradun-based Forest Analysis Institute discovered that these previous timber have been primarily falling due to “developmental actions” corresponding to laying of underground electrical wires, phone cables and water pipelines, in response to the findings.
NDMC’S horticulture division is accountable for the upkeep of the timber.
S Chellaiah, director (horticulture), NDMC, mentioned the timber are primarily uprooted due to concretisation, laying of underground utilities and soil compaction. He harassed that the civic company is worried that the falling of those full-grown timber is not going to solely be an environmental loss but in addition a lack of heritage.
“Contemplating that a lot of the wiring [for electricity cables, CCTV cameras, street lights etc.] is laid underground, you’ll discover an internet of cables round tree roots. Even when roots are minimize or broken in the course of the digging of trenches, they slowly begin decaying and ultimately die. Different causes for timber getting uprooted are concrete-centric growth and ageing. Even older timber might have lived for 10-20 years longer if it weren’t for fixed digging and concretisation,” Chellaiah mentioned.
The civic company says it has been proactive in checking trenching work and concretisation to stop extra timber from falling. Early July, NDMC issued a show-cause discover to Electronics Company of India Restricted (ECIL) after reviews of injury to timber on Sardar Patel Marg in Chanakyapuri throughout work to put underground cables for putting in CCTV cameras alongside the route.
CR Babu, professor emeritus on the Centre for Atmosphere Administration of Degraded Ecosystems at Delhi College, mentioned concretisation is a significant motive behind timber choking to dying throughout the Capital, however the loss will increase when the victims are previous, avenue timber.
“Concrete and overhead and underground wiring choke roots and harm canopies. Though the federal government has maintained the avenue timber effectively, by paying just a little extra consideration, we are able to shield the town’s heritage for some extra years. The timber in different components of the town are in worse situations. Even when they aren’t chopped off, they die a sluggish dying,” Babu mentioned.
The world below NDMC (43.7 sq km) accounts for almost 3% of your entire metropolis (1484 sq km). Almost 50% of the NDMC space is below inexperienced cowl.
Explaining the ecological advantages of the timber, Babu mentioned: “When you assess based mostly on numbers, why does Lutyens’ Delhi all the time have decrease air pollution ranges in comparison with the remainder of the town? It’s due to this cover of timber which are planted alongside each side of the roads there. Bushes are environment friendly scavengers of mud; the quantity of mud trapped by these timber could be very excessive. Additionally, you can not depend upon new plantation as a result of the survival fee of saplings could be very low throughout municipalities, and it takes years for the few survivors to grow to be fully-grown timber.”
Officers within the three different municipalities in Delhi (north, south and east Delhi municipal firms), who didn’t need to be named, mentioned they don’t have a correct log of the variety of timber of their space and the explanations behind tree deaths.
Officers mentioned even when there are timber of their areas which are older than 100 years, they’re neither categorised when it comes to plantation dates nor are they handled with any further care.
“We’re but to have a correct tree census to establish the variety of timber in our space and the explanations behind the dying of every tree. We don’t have the means or the funds to undertake such an in depth evaluation,” mentioned a senior horticulture division official of the North Delhi Municipal Company.