Green is beautiful
IQBAL MALIK AND ANVITA LAKHERA
We need to look around and find out what happened to the trees in our neighbourhood. This World Forestry Day (March 21) see what you can do to save our trees.
Oh! for some space to grow.
We take the trees around us for granted. Most of us ignore the repercussions that the depletion of the green cover can have on people, animals, birds and other living beings. Trees are the custodians of favourable environmental conditions. They help protect soil from erosion, help retain a layer of cool moist air and enhance the local climate. They provide sustenance to an innumerable number of microbes, insects, fungi, other plants and higher animal species. The reduction in the number of trees in an area can alter the climate and even give rise to harmful new species of microbes. We must take responsibility for the green areas in our localities.
Most people are aware that trees function as sinks of air pollutants and noxious gases and are the best filters against dust. They control air pollution by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The Government claims that the green cover has been steadily increasing over the years, but the country's tree cover today is restricted to just 19.5 per cent of its total landmass. We are losing our prime forests at the rate of 1.5 to five million hectares annually and the proportion of degraded land is also among the highest in the world. Even in Delhi (the so called Green Capital) according to the figures in Greening Delhi Action Plan 1999-2000, barely 26 sq.km of the total 1483 sq. km is under green cover.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the already existing and healthy trees are being chopped or choked. Thus Delhi, a city with a natural forest in its midst, a city of innumerable parks, is steadily becoming a city of heat islands and degraded green.
A green colony restored.
A start can be made by de-choking the trees in our colonies, by breaking the concrete or tiles around the trees so that the trees have a minimum of six feet long and three to six feet wide space around their trunks. In localities, which are dusty, trees with wide canopies and broad leaves should be planted. During an experiment conducted by Vatavaran, an organisation working on socio-environmental issues, it was found that peepul, mulberry and banyan absorb 50 per cent more dust than the trees with smaller canopies and narrow leaves like the ashoka and bottlebrush. In water starved areas, lawns must be avoided.
Babblers, mynas, doves, bulbuls, robins, parakeets and even butterflies cannot be seen in most localities anymore. The primary reason is a lack of green planning of the area. Green planning means that, in every season, at least some trees, shrubs, flowering plants or vegetables are in bloom.
Planting more peepul, neem, kikar and silk cotton trees and setting up a bird feeder and a waterer attracts birds to the area. Even in Delhi, only a handful of residential colonies can be considered "Green Colonies" in the true sense, as they have hundreds of trees across their domain. One such well known colony is the Asian Games Village. This colony in South Delhi has almost 10 mature trees per household and innumerable saplings and shrubs. However a large number of trees in Asian Games Village were being choked because of tight tiling, solid concrete and/or dumping of malba and construction material around their trunks. It was surprising to observe the trees of a well known green colony facing such hardships. And what was even more astonishing was the apathy of many of the residents. They kept the trees heavily pruned, dumped garbage under them and erected concrete platforms around the trees. Vatavaran decided to rescue the dying trees by de-choking and de-nailing them. Members of the Vatavaran's Enforcement Brigade undertook two rounds of de-choking with the help of some residents and Government school children. On the chosen days, the brigade got together. The children led the procession raising slogans: malba hatao paedh bachao, paedhon ka gala ghotna bandh karo, bandh karo. Residents who had choked trees around their houses were given request slips to de-choke the trees.
It was two days of hard work for something we believed in. By evening, one way or another residents were involved with the project. We wish we could take this message all over the country.
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