Take care of trees…they take care of you!
Trees could well be the lifeline to saving your city. They not only reduce pollution and energy costs but also provide shade and comfort.
Photo: K. Murali Kumar
Avenue trees: An investment that increases with time.
The number of cities across the world with five million or more inhabitants is projected to rise from 46 in 2003, to 61 in 2015. Obviously, a developing country like India with a population of approximately 1.13 billion is not far behind. Never before in time has our urban environment been in such a precarious state, with such immense pressure on its resources – air, water and soil. And it is certainly time we realised the vital role well grown, healthy trees play in restoring a beneficial balance. In fact, a tree is probably the only investment a city makes that increases over time!
Unfortunately, towns and cities have not been designed by the laws of nature, but by the law of human supply and demand. Trees are included as amenities and are established in an artificial habitat that usually falls short of supplying basic needs. In this setting, trees are further stressed by pollutants and by human-inflicted injuries.
It is necessary to give trees in cities special care, not only for their survival and wellbeing but also to protect people and property from the hazards trees can become in a hostile environment.
The urban underground habitat is particularly ill-suited for healthy tree growth. The soil is typically a mixture of subsoil, and construction waste, compacted to a density that eliminates 80 to 90 per cent of the soil porosity through which air and water must move. Drainage is frequently so poor that routine irrigation leads to a waterlogged environment in which the roots are unable to grow. The nutrient level may be too low for normal tree growth or too high in sodium or trace chemicals, making them toxic to trees.
Saplings are planted close to concrete surfaces and are routinely installed near established trees. Compacted soil conditions, and too little or no watering encourage tree-root growth close to the surface, forcing the roots to grow near buildings and sidewalks. As a result, when the man-made structure becomes damaged, the roots are cut back or the tree is removed.
The urban habitat can be just as harsh. Overhead utility lines, buildings, and traffic-ways often occupy the space into which a tree’s branches normally grow. The consequent clearance pruning is often performed with little regard for the tree’s structure or health.
Trees next to buildings can be shaded most of the day or subjected to a lot of sun! Trees that cannot develop a normal root system may fall down, or their roots may strangle one another.
What you can do
1. Be aware of the correct procedure for planting and caring for a sapling.
2. Begin to notice the trees around you.
3. When you see trees that are badly pruned, stakes that need removal, tree guards that can harm, trees dying from wounds, drought, and pollution — do everything you can for them.
4. Become a special kind of gardener — a tree guardian. Start caring for trees the way you care for your friends, and give them the care and love needed to keep them alive for you.
5. Begin by adopting one tree in your street, then wash its leaves, give it a drink, and see if it needs any special care. Then take on another and another. Check up on them every once in a while to see how they’re doing.
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