BENGALURU: An alert resident of RMV 2nd stage spotted iron rods nailed into two trees by a private construction company, last week. Making note of the violation of Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976, Prreeya Narayanan alerted the Forest Department. This is the second time she is reporting harm done to this line of trees. “A year ago I tried complaining about posters being stapled and nails screwed into trees, but no action was taken. Last week, I came across newly inserted rods in trees, to make iron bending easier for construction work. The workers also nailed ladders and tied ropes to aid their work,” says Prreeya.
The onus of saving trees has inadvertently fallen into the hands of morally conscious citizens but newer methods to kill trees spring up every day.Officials can be agonisingly slow to respond. Prreeya’s complaint was attended to after five days, with a Forest Officer visiting the spot. The concerned Forest Officer for RMV 2nd stage, Thimmappa, says, “I visited the spot on Wednesday and found labourers using two trees to bend their rods. I have ordered them to remove it.”
There are two kinds of tree harming, one that stems from ignorance and the other that is deliberate, says Priya Chetty, founder of Heritage Beku that also conducts tree-conservation drives. “On Palace Road, in Cubbon Park and in other public places, I have noticed advertisements nailed or stapled onto trees for PG accommodations or ‘fighting diabetes,” she says. “The trees get weak and vulnerable to strong gusts of wind. The posters block the bark and it prevents air from entering that part of tree. As fungi, lizards and beetles start colonising the closed tree portion, the tree eventually dies,” Prreeya observes.
While these may be unintentional, they do harm the tree. What’s worse is the deliberate crucifixion, she points out.
“Construction workers use the tree as an anchor while building a wall, inserting a rod through the bark. It is a terrible sight to see them using heritage trees as pillar supports for standing, sawing and welding metal pipes. This puts pressure on the trees core,”Chetty added.
Neglect and indifferent planning are killers too
A natural cause of death but preventable if intervention is made at the right time is termite menace. Chetty recalls a Gulmohar tree near the Accountant General Office ridden with termites, which collapsed after 5-6 years of infestation, something that could have been treated.
Hemant, founder of Save Green, says that concreting of the entire footpath, leaving no soil for the tree to breathe and soak water in is another major violation, which officials routinely do.
Tree Doctor Vijay Nishanth, who raised these issues in the past, says, “The growth gets shunted when the rods are nailed into the tree. Infection spreads and even once the rod is removed, the portion remains exposed. The life expectancy reduces and over time it dies slowly. For the DCF (Deputy Conservator of Forests) and ACf, this is hardly an issue.”
Onus on citizens
Nishanth believes citizens have to remain alert and bring such issues to light, as Forest Department officials would not go around inspecting all trees. “However, the action taken against the violator must be severe. When it comes to cases of pouring acid on trees, the case goes upto Lokayukta. Nailing of urban trees is a perpetual problem and needs to be escalated the same way,” he adds, referring to use of mercury, cyanide, lead oxide to kill trees.
When asked about action take to prevent such violations, Forest Officer Thimmappa says,”It is not possible to know of violations going on with each tree in the zone. Citizens know it is illegal and must alert us. Usually, the ACF gives a verbal warning first and sends a notice to the contractor if they repeat it.” Apart from the environmental aspect, the weakened trees pose a safety hazard and might just end up falling on any passerby.