BANGALORE: In the heart of Bangalore — which some still refer to as Garden City — 10 municipal wards have less than 200 trees.
Chikpet, with a population of 52,688, has just 25 trees. Padarayanapura (near Chamrajpet), with a population of 67,623, is no better, with 26 trees.
Kempapura Agrahara (62 trees), Shivajinagar (70 trees), Kushal Nagar (89 trees) and Muneshwaranagar (116 trees) are some other wards with a shameful record in nurturing trees.
A report released in March by the Environment Information System, Centre for Ecological Science, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), says 32 to 55 trees for every human is required to mitigate respiratory carbon dioxide. It has found that the city, with over a crore people, has just 14.78 lakh trees, spread across 824 sq km.
Areas added newly to the BBMP fare better. For example, Varthur in Mahadevapura constituency has 72,069 trees, which is the highest for any ward. The human population in that ward is just 30,430. This means it has two trees per person. In Bellandur, which has 54,366 trees, the human population is just 25,614. This is followed by Agaram, Aramane Nagar and Kuvempunagar wards, which have 49,930, 43,743 and 40,296 trees respectively.
Bangalore is losing its green cover for many reasons. According to BBMP Chief Conservator of Forest Brijesh Kumar, only 19 people are on the municipal rolls to look after trees and saplings planted across 824 sq km. Of the eight municipal ranges (zones), only five have Range Forest Officers.
Records say the BBMP has planted 1.9 lakh seedlings in 2009-10, 3.12 lakh in 2010-11, 0.58 lakh in 2011-12 and 1.77 in 2012-13.
The sapling survival rate is low. Reason: Planting should be done between July-September (during the monsoons), but bureaucratic delays hold up the work.
According to data available with Express, no seedlings were planted last year because the approvals did not come in time. For the current year, the BBMP continues to sit on approvals, although the monsoon is almost here.
The BBMP does not consider its Forest Department a priority. “Of the city spread of 824 sq km, 100.02 sq km is forest area, and only 4 sq km park area. Last year, the BBMP allocated Rs 29.70 crore for forests, but released only Rs 3.90 crore. For parks, it allocated `64.24 crore, and released a good Rs 38.16 crore,” a source said.
In May 2014, Mayor B S Sathyanarayana wrote to all councillors, asking them how many seedlings they needed for their wards.
Of 198 councillors, only 16 replied and requested seedlings and tree guards. Sathyanarayana said he would send all of them a reminder. “I will also announce this in the council meeting,” he said.
Shameful Human, Tree Ratio
While we need at least eight to ten trees per human to maintain oxygen and air quality, Bangalore does not even have one for one. “The oxygen should be 21 per cent and the air should have no suspended particulates,” A N Yellappa Reddy, well-known environmentalist, said. “Trees trap suspended particulates. When human beings inhale such particulates, they develop respiratory problems,” he explained. He also said with fewer trees, the atmospheric temperature is rising. Commerce and greed are responsible for tree felling in central areas. “Trees are cut for vehicle parking. They are also cut to improve visibility of hoardings,” he rued. According to the A T Ramaswamy Committee, unauthorised buildings have come up in 40,000 acres in the city. “Civic amenity sites meant for parks are grabbed. Many politicians are involved in land grab, and so show no interest in reclaiming such spaces,” he alleged.