Trees being cut at night to avoid protest by locals: Chennai residents

Residents say previously branches would be cut on the first day, and the following day, the whole tree would be cut and the debris cleared.
An area in KK Nagar where trees had to be cut to facilitate ongoing stormwater drain work, despite repeated opposition rom residents | Ashwin Prasath
An area in KK Nagar where trees had to be cut to facilitate ongoing stormwater drain work, despite repeated opposition rom residents | Ashwin Prasath

CHENNAI: Despite repeated appeals from residents, corporation officials continue to chop 100-year-old trees along KK Nagar for stormwater drain (SWD) work. Since residents have been opposing it, the officials are now carrying out the work at night, allege locals.

After the KK Nagar incident in July, when a tree near an under-construction SWD fell on a car and killed a woman, the corporation has started pruning trees in the area. In the process, they also felled numerous trees, some more than 100 years old.

Residents say previously branches would be cut on the first day, and the following day, the whole tree would be cut and the debris cleared. Within 24 hours, there would be no sign of the tree. However, as residents started opposing this, trees are now being cut after 11 pm, they allege.

“The SWDs are very close to the roots of the trees. The trees are in so much distress due to the cement. It will take at least 100 more years for the trees to regrow, and the likelihood is very low because the cement and bitumen won’t allow them to grow. KK Ramaswamy Salai, Munuswamy Salai and Lakshmana Swamy Salai are among the areas that lost most of their green cover,” said K Ramakrishnan, a landscaping expert and long-time resident of KK Nagar.

The older trees that have been chopped include raintree, neemtree, Poovarasan tree, Bodhi tree, monkey pod, copper pod and Lannea coromandelica, which can sprout new leaves and start growing even if a mere two feet of the main trunk is left and if the roots aren’t uprooted or damaged. According to experts, a fully-grown tree of these species gives at least 110 kg of oxygen each year.

“The felling of trees started in the beginning of July and there seems to be no end to it. When we chop a tree, we rarely worry about the bird and mammalian life we damage, and don’t even bother to realise that these life forms play a big and major role in sustaining the ecosystem for mankind. Vertical pits may be a better option than horizontal SWDs, so more trees are not damaged,” said PS Karthikeyan, a botanist.

When contacted, a corporation official said only weak trees are being felled, and branches of big trees are being cut. “We have been getting complaints from residents, but only weak trees are being cut so no more mishaps happen,” the official said, and refused to comment on the felling of 100-year-old trees in the area.

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