Saturday, March 24, 2007

Trees are the city’s best friends

Trees are the city’s best friends
The Times of India

Bangalore: Trees can be partners in a way nothing else can be. That’s the message environmentalist Zafar Futehally has been trying to drum into government officials for years. And he continues to do so, through the Bangalore Environment Trust (BET), of which he is a founding member.
The years of perseverance have paid off, with the government set to release Rs 15 lakh for the protection of indigenous trees, registration of heritage trees, planting more such trees and protection of heritage tree sites (sacred grooves).
The state can cash in on these sites and make them tourist attractions, says Futehally.
Founded in 1987 by people like Prof Satish Dhawan (ISRO), Prof V Radhakrishnan (RRI), Mohan Bopiah (urban planner) and Capt S Prabhala (BEL), BET realised 30 years ago itself that if we didn’t put an end to the haphazard growth of the city, Bangalore would lose its environmental advantage. The need for a long-term plan to retain the city’s charm and attractiveness became evident.
The trust took up various issues of public interest and attempted to liaison with government officials to ensure the citizens’ interests are kept in mind even as plans for the city are put in place.
In the 1980s, the trust took up issues of noise pollution, traffic, air pollution, solid waste management, sewage treatment, rain water harvesting and conservation of trees.
The conservation, preservation and protection of indigenous trees has been one of Futehally’s main concerns.
He has been speaking out constantly on the need to ensure that the ficus, banyan and pipal trees — native to Bangalore — get adequate protection, more so since they support the largely berryeating bird population of India.
In 1996, the department of environment and forests was set up with A Ravindra as the secretary. The trust petitioned him to enact a law to protect our indigenous trees which resulted in an order giving them special protection.
Sustained work has meant that now more individuals and organisations are involved in the cause.
People like Vijay Tiruvadi, who conducts tree walks, photographer Mahesh Srinivasan, the Pollution Control Board, and many others have joined the movement to protect trees. UTI Bank chairman P J Nayak has given the trust office space and agreed to finance the planting of trees on M G Road. This is a good reason for cheer, says Futehally
In a novel study, an attempt was made to quantify the pollution removal capabilities of urban trees. By comparing sites with and without tree cover, it was found that trees were directly responsible for removing up to 40% of coarse particulate matter (100 microns)
The shade provided by these trees reduced ambient air temperature by up to 4 degree Celsius and road temperatures by up to 19 degree Celsius.
These factors led to lengthening of road surface life by up to 10 years.


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