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Greening drive promising, yet long way to go

City Bureau

“A tree committee comprising experts, policy-makers, NGOs is needed for pragmatic planning”

Photo: S.S. Kumar

MORE TO BE DONE: With different infrastructural projects coming up, there is more reason why the city's green cover has to keep increasing, say experts. Greenery seen in a locality in Nungambakkam. —

CHENNAI: The city's green cover may show promise if we are to take into account the tree planting drive being taken up by various government and non-governmental organisations. But, Chennai has a long way to go.

According to a senior forest official, an urban area should have 10 per cent green cover. The green cover in the city based on satellite imaging is roughly estimated to be around 4.5 to 5 per cent, although that cannot be taken as final.

There is no authentic information of the city's tree cover brought out by the Chennai Corporation, the Forest Department or NGOs. A tree census is being planned by the Forest Department for the first time in the city and it might offer some startling figures on the tree density.

Green drive

With this season ideal for planting saplings, many organisations have announced their contribution to improve the greenery. The Chennai Corporation, for instance, recently announced that after the northeast monsoon, it would plant 40,000 saplings with the help of a voluntary organisation. The Chennai Metro Rail Limited has asked the Corporation to identify locations for planting 17,000 saplings.

NGOs working to improve the green cover say such numbers will speak only if the saplings are monitored well. In the last few years, the civic body has set itself a target of planting around 10,000 saplings every year but only 8,000 are planted. However, 30 per cent of these saplings do not survive after a year.

Massive tree planting drives point to a good trend as it is the only known mechanism for environmental conservation and compensation for the infrastructural projects started in the name of development, but it's after care which is the key.

“The whole area [which has been denuded] should be saturated with trees. One year old seedlings should be planted and must be provided adequate care for three years. Planting is easier but maintenance is the difficult part. What is needed is a long term vision and even people should be made more aware of planting, maintaining and care of trees,” says C.K. Sreedharan, head of Forest Force and former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest.

Sensitive greening

Factors such as the kind of plants suitable for the city, the right species for a particular road and saplings that will withstand the onslaught of wind during cyclones should be considered while initiating a planting drive, he adds.

“Tree species recommended for planting along avenues are: Indian Laburnum, Neem, Indian Medlar, Persian Lilac, Purple Bauhinia, Portia Tree, Alexandrian Laurel, Mahogony, False Fern Tree, Arjun Tree, Pride of India, Tree of Life, Sausage Tree and Indian Almond,” says Pauline Deborah R., Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Biology and Plant Biotechnology, Women's Christian College.

“Tabebuia species, Gulmohar and copper pod should be avoided because they produce shallow roots, would get uprooted easily and are exotic species.”

Experts say the Corporation should know of the trees that fall during the monsoon and avoid planting the same species again. “A survey should also be done just prior to the onset of monsoon on the trees that are likely to uproot and efforts should be made to remove them,” says Ms. Deborah, adding that it is effective to plant at the place where trees got uprooted.

Organisation such as Anandham Youth Foundation, Nizhal, Indian Telugu Association, Chennai Social Service, Tree Bank, Isha Foundation, to name a few, have some or the other plans to improve the green cover this season, but they say community and corporate sponsorship is needed to increase the green cover.

A tree committee comprising experts, policy-makers, NGOs is needed for a pragmatic planning, procuring and planting of tree saplings, they add.

(With inputs from Liffy Thomas, R. Sujatha and Aloysius Xavier Lopez)

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