KATHRIGUPPE: A few trees along Outer Ring Road were illegally cut, apparently overnight, prompting a concerned citizen to submit a written complaint with the Tree Cell seeking action.
Entrepreneur Prashanth Sambargi, a resident of Banashankari 3rd Stage, was pained to see a row of Ashoka trees with their tops hacked off as he drove past the Saphire Toys showroom on Sunday morning. He immediately called the police to complain.
“This is the third time that trees along this median have been cut,” an indignant Sambargi told City Express. “First the shopkeepers blamed Bescom, then the traffic department and then BBMP.”
Road widening and Bescom work are often the reasons for trees here being felled, he claimed, adding that this time 21 trees have been brought down. However, it is one of the retail store owners who has cut down the trees to increase visibility of the shopfront, he alleged.
In fact, his complaint received by the Assistant Conservator of Forests, a copy of which is with City Express, goes as far as to name owners Saphire Toys as those who have cut down the trees.
“A security guard on night duty nearby told us who has done it,” he said. “The police have said that they will take the person’s statement and take further action.”
Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) for Bengaluru South Ranganathaswamy H S said that no one had sought permission to cut down the trees and that anyone approaching the BBMP in this regard would have been discouraged.
“If the trees were on the footpath and their building was at risk of being damaged, then we might have agreed,” he said. “But these are Ashoka trees — 10 in all — on the median that grow straight up. They are of no danger to anybody.”
In addition to being safe, the trees help avoid glare from headlights of vehicles coming from the opposite direction, Sambargi said.
Cutting down or pruning trees that got in the way of publicity hoardings were common three to four years ago, said Ranganathaswamy. “Especially on Airport and Old Airport roads.”
And though he feels that the trees will regrow — they have been pruned, he added — the ACF has promised to file an FIR and follow it through with a court case as suggested in the complaint. “There are two or three people whom we suspect. We will verify on Monday who it is, and definitely take action,” he said.
However, when contacted by City Express, Saqib Ahmed, owner of Saphire Toys, Banashankari, said that a false allegation was being levelled against his business. “We have nothing to do with it,” he said. “Earlier, rumours were circulated that Saphire is not eco-friendly.”
He and his father spotted someone from a neighbouring store talking to a Bescom official whose name he knows, he claimed. “It was around 10.45 am and they were standing next to a Bescom van parked near the cut trees,” he added. “I want to clarify this with the BBMP at the earliest opportunity,” he added. “This is about ethics, not brand image.”
Shop owners clueless
Shop owners in the area were wary of commenting on the issue. One of them, who did not wish to be named, said that the trees were still standing after they wound up business at 11 pm on Saturday. “And when I came to open my shop around 7 am on Sunday, I was shocked to see that the trees had been cut down,” he said.
A couple of other shopkeepers that City Express spoke to shared the bewilderment.
A resident of the locality said that it was likely that the trees were cut down with an axe. “Had they used machines, the noise would have woken us up. It was done stealthily,” he added.
— Pushkar V