Monday, June 28, 2010

Rain tree gets a raw deal from BBMP

Rain tree gets a raw deal from BBMP
Subhash Chandra N S and Sandeep Moudgal, June 27, Bangalore, DH News Service:

Long cherished for being a part of the City’s green canopy, the rain tree (Samanea samans) is on the verge of losing its roots in Bangalore.

Long cherished for being a part of the City’s green canopy, the rain tree (Samanea samans) is on the verge of losing its roots in Bangalore. As if their periodic felling for road-widening projects wasn’t enough, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has completely taken out the rain tree from its list of tree species selected for an afforestation programme.

Five lakh saplings are to be planted under the BBMP’s ambitious initiative. The Palike has shortlisted eight species of trees, all of which with a crown less than that of the rain tree. Species such as rosea, tabobia, avalan, techoma, alsenia, mahgony and pongamia will now adorn the roadsides.

The BBMP move has angered tree lovers in the City. “It is a tragedy that such a beautiful tree with a huge canopy is not on the list. Already, we are losing many shade-giving trees,” rued Sunil Kumar M, an environmentalist.

M B Krishna, a City-based ornithologist, explained that the rain tree was an interesting species, the leaves of which periodically closed to allow the ground heat to escape. Its large canopy and fast growth helped to lower the surrounding temperature. “It had its effect on the City’s climate with its wide canopy. That umbrella will go now,” he said.
With its wide cover and shade, the rain tree also protected the Bangalore’s avian flock, especially raptors like owls, which will now be rendered homeless.

Corruption and Ignorance

The BBMP had allowed thousands of rain trees to be felled in recent times to widen roads and reduce traffic woes. But according to retired High Court judge, Justice M F Saldanha, who has a special affection for rain trees, timber value of the trees was probably the reason for the mindless felling of rain trees. “We need expert suggestions, which is not happening at the BBMP level. Those who make decisions are neither trained in forestry nor guided by experts,” he said.

But BBMP officials and senior environmentalist, Dr A N Yelappa Reddy, said the decision to do away with rain trees was justified.

“This decision is based on recommendations made in 2003. With the City facing a space problem, we cannot afford these trees with huge crowns,” he said.

Urban conditions, he explained, required trees with small crowns that did not block roads when uprooted. “Frequent digging of roads for laying cables will weaken the trees, leading to their uprooting. It is not eco-friendly,” he said. He said the decision to leave out the rain tree was not taken in haste, and a lot of study had gone into it.

But cannot the tree be grown in parks or mini-forest patches? Reddy said this, too, would not be possible, as the tree’s huge canopy did not allow any undergrowth.

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