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It’s high time KMC realises how to protect the green

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About two years ago satellite pictures of the city was released and analyzed. The result was extremely grim. The city’s green cover had dipped to an extremely unhealthy 4.79 percent, an indicator to the damage that was gradually going out of hands. And now to add to the city’s woes, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has decided to axe ‘unsafe’ trees to ensure they don’t topple during storms.

Officials of  KMC’s parks department have already initiated a detailed survey of different areas to determine the health and vulnerability of the trees and label the ‘unsafe' trees for felling. According to a preliminary study, a large number of trees are vulnerable to getting uprooted during gales and storms. Some areas where perilous trees have been found in large numbers include Northern Avenue, Bidhan Sarani, Camac Street, Raja Subodh Mullick Road, Alipore Road, Kidderpore, Race Course Road and Jawaharlal Nehru Road. 

The issue of unstable trees was brought up at the KMC monthly meeting recently. A number of councillors complained that residents in their wards were regularly protesting against KMC’s inaction against some of the full-grown trees leaning dangerously in their areas and feared that they might topple during a strong wind. Hence, the councillors appealed to KMC to take immediate action and rid their area of the risky trees.

The move has been vehemently opposed by Green activists who fear this will give the authorities an excuse to fell trees at the slightest pretext. They insist more often than not, the reason trees become vulnerable and topple is due to callous actions by KMC contractors and agencies. Pavements are dug indiscriminately for laying of designer tiles. In the process roots of full grown trees on the pavements are severed, making them vulnerable and weak. Also, paving is done till the edge of the trunk leaving no space for water to seep in and reach the roots. In the long run, this weakens the trees. Pruning is also carried out unscientifically.  

Environmentalists and Green activists are worried because hundreds of full-grown trees have already been cut for infrastructure projects. Many others have toppled during storms and nor-westers. They argue that the KMC parks department should concentrate on strengthening the trees that are identified as weak rather than wield the axe. They opine that trees that lean perilously can be made to stand erect by scientific pruning of the crown, providing support and reconstruction of the tree. If it is diseased, it can be medically treated. Only if the tree is so old and weak that it is beyond redemption can it be pulled out. 
According to the National Commission on Urbanization, open spaces in Kolkata have been vanishing at an alarming rate. Less than one per cent of city space now remains vacant. Compared to Calcutta, the green cover in Delhi (19.09 per cent) and Mumbai (18 per cent) is much higher whereas the national average stands at 19.49 per cent.Hacking a big tree can never be compensated. So,experts recommend transplantation rather than uprooting of trees. Will the city’s mayor, who is also the environment minister, finally understand that thoughtless felling of trees cannot be the solution to getting the city rid of ‘dangerous’ trees that might cause damage. Isn’t KMC causing more damage by robbing the city off its green cover?

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