Monsoon and pre-monsoon showers in the national capital of Delhi used to be a means for the ordinary Delhiites to escape the hot, humid and sticky heat that is ubiquitous to the region. However, over the last few years, the advent of rains or any kind of storm has meant that people have to hold their breath and pray that there is no significant damage to their properties. Galestorms and howling winds have become the common pattern of any rain in Delhi, and one of the biggest repercussions of it is the alarming number of trees getting uprooted in the immediate vicinity.
Every time there is a moderate wind, Delhi clutches on dearly and hopes that trees are able to withstand the storm. However, at this point, it is given that trees will tumble in the capital. While a few trees uprooting is not a major cause of worry, the felling of over 100 trees warrants an investigation.
Earlier this month when a storm hit the national capital region, albeit for a mere 30 minutes, it was reported that over 300 trees were uprooted. The trees keeling over during the squall also led to a death of a man in North Delhi’s Angoori Bagh; a 65-year-old homeless man, who was resting near a tree on a footpath, died after the tree fell on him.
Delhi’s new Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena was quoted as saying in the aftermath, “I share the concern of every resident of Delhi about the maintenance & upkeep of trees in the City& their related uprooting & breakage that happens in the event of a storm. We’ve taken the matter seriously & will address it at the earliest.”
I share the concern of every resident of Delhi about the maintenance & upkeep of trees in the City & their related uprooting & breakage that happens in the event of a storm.We've taken the matter seriously & will address it at the earliest: Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena
#DelhiRain Diaries for all the #climatechange naysayers & skeptics All of us need to do our bit like our house was on fire. Some of these trees are over 50 years old. While the cold showers have brought relief from the blistering heat it was sad to see incredible trees uprooted pic.twitter.com/HkifbkpxiX
One of the major reasons that trees keep getting uprooted in Delhi is the extreme concretisation whilst attempting to build a concrete jungle. Because the land around trees is almost entirely covered by cement, the trees are not able to breathe and as a result — get asphyxiated.
These living beings require air and water to survive from the open ground around them. These roots take moisture and nutrients and have symbiotic fungi around them. However, owing to poor urban planning, the trees are choked with concrete with the roots not able to fetch even a single drop of water.
Few days back many trees got uprooted in New Delhi and adjoining areas due to winds. Over concretisation and lower water table weakens the roots of the trees present in Urban Areas, the govt. and the people need to work together to improve this deteriorating situation. pic.twitter.com/w3DeAoZZbr
Slowly, the supply of the necessities for a tree to survive is cut off and it begins to rot from inside. The root decays and gets infested while the trunk loses its strength. Thus, when a wind storm hits the area, the trees succumb and instantly get uprooted.
Is the one-metre regulation enough?
Some regulations and laws have been made to stop the concretisation of trees. The Urban Greening Guidelines, which came into place in 2000, required one to leave six inches of areas un-cemented around the trunk of trees. This was increased by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2013, when it ordered that the space around trees must be concrete-free by one metre.
However, even the one-metre rule is not enough for trees to properly breathe. Most of the time, the pavements hinder the development of the feeder roots. When the trees were uprooted earlier this month, most had blocks of bricks around the root, suggesting that they had been smothered knowingly.
In a country where human lives often don’t count for much whilst making rosy development plans, it is a bit of a stretch to hope that trees and their wellbeing will be the priority of the administration.
Improper pruning and planting alien tree species
Additionally, trees also get uprooted if the top is heavy and the root poorly developed as trees cannot sustain the wind. The authorities in Delhi are far too lax to carry out proper trimmings. Often one can see tree branches dangling out dangerously, putting the lives of commuters and the trees in jeopardy.
Thirdly, poor planting techniques and the planting of the wrong type of trees is another reason Delhi witnessed multiple accidents. If trees native to Delhi were planted and diversity ensured while planting avenue trees, survival and sustainability would become easier. Environmentalists and activists are also of the opinion that many contractors hired by the civic bodies of the cities use the wrong methods to prune trees and plant alien tree species, making them unstable.
If a city like Delhi is to survive, which faces extreme weather conditions in every season, it needs its trees. It is said that a mature tree can absorb up to 150 kg of carbon dioxide per year and with Delhi turning into an urban heat island by the day, the loss of a single tree can have dangerous repercussions.
Succinctly put, trees are the building block of the environment. The government and public need to work together to mitigate any loss of these living beings. With monsoon yet to hit Delhi, the authorities still have the time to get their act right. The capital city cannot afford to lose any of its majestic green friends.
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