Saturday, July 18, 2009

Have a healthy variety of trees in the city

Have a healthy variety of trees in the city

Vaishalli Chandra



Neem trees may soon become a thing of the past in the city if BBMP commissioner Bharat Lal Meena's directives of not planting these species are strictly followed. Speaking to Vaishalli Chandra, Dr Harini Nagendra, Ramanujan Fellow, Urban Ecology Program Coordinator, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), talks about the issue and the necessity of having tree planting policies in place.

What are the trends noticed in terms of the tree planting drive in the recent years?
There has been a marked shift in the tree planting trend in Bangalore over the years. Species like the rain tree, copper pod, African tulip and Gulmohar—that used to be planted very regularly earlier are not so much favoured these days. These trees grow to be very tall and have wide canopies. Their wide and tall branches interfere with overhead electric wires and cables. Possibly because of this, they are being replaced by species like honge and mast trees, which have narrower canopies. Apart from changes in species, we have observed changes in tree management practices. Pavements are being increasingly cemented, with very little space left for trees.

Why does the city need policies for tree planting?
If policies are formulated and then circulated among citizens for feedback, their impact could be followed through research over time and modified for maximum ecological, environmental and human benefits. None of this is possible when policies are not in place. An ad hoc approach is not good for the city.
How do these policies help?
Different species of trees have different uses and depending on the requirements, they should be planted across the city. For instance, on wide roads, fast growing species should be planted so as to provide maximum benefits in reducing pollution and lowering temperature. On narrow roads in residential localities, where overhead cables and electric lines jostle for space with trees, short statured species can be selected. There should be an emphasis on maintaining a healthy variety of species.

What problems can arise when no policies or guidelines are in place?
The administrators in charge of tree planting change frequently. Also over the time, the agency in charge of urban tree planting and maintenance has changed hands from the forest department to the BBMP. In the absence of systematic policies, with each change in administration, the approach to planting trees also keep changing. This is dependent on the personal preferences of the people in charge at any given point of time. So a scientific approach should be adopted for selection of tree species, with a careful documentation of the benefits and challenges of planting different species

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