Tuesday, March 02, 2010



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The city once known for its sprawling avenues, perfect for walks, is no longer a pedestrian's paradise. With Bengaluru fast losing its tree cover and its pleasant climate, residents have no wish to saunter across the city in the heat and shop on the streets, reports Amit S. Upadhye

Bengalureans, who have always enjoyed a stroll in the shady avenues of the city, are now being discouraged from going on their customary walks as its large, shade-giving trees are fast disappearing from the roadsides in many localities, says a new study.
Harini Nagendra of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, who did the research, observes that with the cutting down of trees and the disappearance of the comfortable microclimate they cre- ated in many areas, the once vibrant pedestrian traffic, cyclists, and street life that surrounded them , are also beginning to fade. "Trees provide visual character to city streets which attracts more human traffic, con- tributing to its character, culture and vibrancy," she says, pointing out that they provide a place for people to meet friends, have a snack and enjoy a pleasant evening. "But with trees being reduced to stumps with every passing day this culture is vanishing," she observes sadly.

Moreover as a number of trees have been cut and re-located for road widening, flyovers and the Metro Rail in recent years, an imbalance has been created in the city's green cover, increasing the effects of pollution and raising its temperature, Ms Nagendra adds.

Vinay Srinivas, a member of Hasiru Usiru agrees that an informal economy surrounds every large tree in the city and that cutting them down is not only costing the ecology but also the social life of Bengaluru.

According to retired forest officer S.G. Neginhal people have become less sensitive towards trees and are trying to get rid of them in different ways. "Starting from Bescom staff to mall owners, everyone wants trees off the roads. They fail to understand the value of trees being around," says the officer , who claims an organised timber lobby is working in the city to axe them down. "The members meet owners of houses with large trees in their compounds and tell them stories about how their roots could be trou- blesome for their water sumps and so on, convincing them to have them removed," Mr Neginhal explains.

Thankfully, however, the old areas like Basavanagudi and Malleswaram still have several large trees all- owing their people to take long wa- lks in the shade they provide and en- joy the ambience they create.

But Ms Nagendra feels the time has come to collect data on the van- ishing trees of Bengaluru and take measures to restore the balance.

"Urban forests are a critical lung space. We need to do more research to evaluate their usefulness and monitor changes over time." Bengaluru is transi- tioning from a city with streets to an urban design dominated by wider roads. The loca- tion of trees and choice of species is critical, which is not being fol- lowed in Bengaluru.

HARINI NAGENDRA, Ecological coordinator from ATREE, Bengaluru People are not conscious about the importance of trees in their surround- ings. They come up with unrealistic reasons to cut them down and the civic agencies hardly ever refuse them. People must be sensitised to the need for trees.

S.G. NEGINHAL, a retired forest officer In future trees must be planted to pro- vide shade. With the built-up space in the city increas- ing every year, such trees will help reduce the heat island effect.

S. SUDHIRA, Urban planner


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