This story is repeated ad-nauseam every year and as a member of Citizens For Green Doon, a group which fights for trees, most of my time after each storm, is spent explaining to journalists why trees fall and how we as a society are responsible for their fate.
Thunderstorms a re just one of the manifestations of nature’s power. With wind speeds of over 100 kmph, they have been causing extensive destruction from times immemorial and only the hardiest can stand upto them. Therefore trees falling in storms are a part of nature and there is nothing much we can really do to prevent this. Unfortunately what we do do is to make the trees more vulnerable to fall in such storms. We weaken their foundation by digging up land around them thus weakening their roots, we burn garbage at their base, we drive nails into them to put up advertisements, we put coal tar and cement right upto their trunk and then we blame them when they fall! How I wish in the meetings our DM has with the DFO they discuss WHY trees fall, rather than discussing when to cut more trees. Two years ago an unfortunate accident in which a burning tree fell on a passing by girl is often quoted repeatedly to justify indiscriminate massacre of trees. What is conveniently forgotten is that someone a few hours earlier had set fire to the thick undergrowth of the tree. What is also very conveniently forgotten is that since that day 2 years ago, almost 500 persons must have died in road accidents in our city, yet no one talks about the urgency of regulating the traffic and controlling vehicles. We only see trees as the major threat to human life. One does wonder why?
Just as the DFO is pulled up for the falling trees, one wonders why the Municipal Commissioner and the Mayor are not pulled up by the falling hoardings, mobile towers, tin sheds and electricity poles. One cannot recall a single instance of the DM pointing fingers at the other two dignitaries of our city. Why trees, trees and trees? Why does the media not call for removal of dangerous hoardings and bill boards and of dangerous buildings as vociferously as it calls for felling of “dangerous” trees? Is it something to do with the rich and powerful owning these??
What one also forgets is that while there are many ways of identifying which hoardings and billboards and mobile towers are likely to fall and many ways of ensuring that they do not fall, there is absolutely no way of predicting which tree will fall in the next thunderstorm. Weak looking, hollow trees sometimes withstand even the strongest winds, while apparently healthy looking sturdy trees may fall to comparatively milder winds. Therefore massacring numerous trees will not prevent trees from falling in a storm. The only way to guarantee that no tree ever falls in Doon is to make sure that there is simply no tree in Doon. Cut down all of them.
Citizens For Green Doon has been indirectly accused of “hindering” the felling of “dangerous” trees leading to grave threat to the life and property of Doonites. Let me use this opportunity to clarify once again the stand of CFGD on the issue.
CFGD does not oppose the felling of “dangerous” trees which pose threat to life and property of Doonites. We do oppose felling of healthy trees after labeling them as “dangerous” & the process by which trees are identified as dangerous. Since most of our readers would not be familiar with the details of the process involved in identifying the so-called dangerous trees, let me summarize the issue in brief.
Forest Act defines “dangerous” trees as those causing danger to life or property, a definition so vague that it invites misuse. Since there is no way of scientifically determining which tree will fall, any tree near a house can be and is labeled as “dangerous”. Tree near a wall can be dangerous, tree near a jhuggi can be dangerous, just about any tree in the urban area can be dangerous. And this “danger” is identified by a forestor, an official with no formal training in tree pathology. According to a reply received from FRI to an RTI query by CFGD, identifying which trees can cause harm is a highly specialized subject with over 11 different aspects, which none of the forest officials are trained in at present. Therefore the list compiled by the forestor is highly subjective and worse, it is never scrutinized physically by the DFO, not because of carelessness, but because of low priority this issue has in the already overworked officer.
CFGD has on numerous occasions documented with photographs, healthy trees being chopped down for being “dangerous”. On one occasion a 5 foot green tree planted 5 years ago by the forest department itself, was chopped down after being labeled as “dangerous” in Jakhan. For unknown reasons, trees in front of upcoming complexes & vacant private plots suddenly become dangerous. In one incident, all the six trees in front of a private plot in Malsi suddenly became “dangerous” and were earmarked for felling until CFGD intervened. Ways of preventing misuse of the “dangerous” clause include photographic evidence of the tree being dangerous and joint inspections with environmental groups, have somehow not found favor either with high level forest officials nor with officials sitting in the Secretariat.
Therefore, the hype about “dangerous trees falling in thunderstorms” is misplaced, whether by design or by ignorance, I leave it to the learned readers to judge. Let us respect trees in our city and not see them with contempt. The way we treat them is the way they will treat us. If saving human life and property is the only consideration, let us focus our energies on road accidents which kill a Doonite almost every single day. Blowing out of proportions, occasional destruction caused by a falling tree, which falls because we have mistreated it, speaks more about us than anything else.
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