Menace of Concretization

The monsoon in Delhi is back in reckoning for being the much talked about topic, almost in direct competition to the issue of heat wave which had enveloped the city for quite some time now. Happy days seem to be back again, the world’s again a happy place to be in and all is well. Alas! A tree fell on my car and abruptly halted my chimera. All I could grumble about now was how the rains were lashing every nook and cranny of the city, how the slush was dirtying my precious heels and how badly the trees were wrecking havoc on the traffic and electric poles. As far as the problem of trees being uprooted under one stroke of thundershowers goes, the roots of such a problem can well be identified under the garb of development, the consequences of which we all have had to bear.

Many of the trees in and around Delhi are very old and their roots are understandably, weak. Due to an increased drive of concretization in full flow, all the pavements are constructed extremely close to the roots of such trees. It shrinks the breathing the space of the tree thereby diminishes their capacity to stand upright. It also blocks the discharge outlets and curbs the flow of natural water, thereby leading to the weakening of these already ageing roots. The trees are not provided any space to breathe and nor is there any provision for their growth at the root level. It has adversely affected the green cover of the city as one mere burst of rain leaves them uprooted and strewn like ninepins. Not only does this phenomenon work adversely for the ‘green belt’, which Delhi has so carefully cultivated and nurtured but it also creates a lot of difficulties for the already irksome traffic situation. Due to heavy water logging, traffic jams have become a regular occurrence and to add to this misery, when trees get uprooted, they block the major roads connecting various places which make commuting a hellish nightmare even for the experienced driver. And one does not need to make a special mention as to how perilous this dislocation of trees is to human life. Many of the electricity wires which lie atop the trees sway about dangerously, once the tree comes down and electrocution becomes a high possibility. Delhi’s ambitions of becoming a global city have surely come at a price.

The situation has been so dire that it has caught the eye of the Judiciary. The Honourable Delhi High Court recently passed an order making it imperative for the NDMC and MCD officials to curb concretization around trees and also to take remedial measures for treating the damage already done. This included inspection of the entire area falling under the NDMC, periodically and taking necessary steps to de-concretize and retile the pavements. The Court also noted that such indiscriminate concretization is in direct violation of the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, thereby making it a statutory offence. However the response to such an order has been sporadic, at best. So much so that the High Court recently again expressed concern over the flouting of its orders by the civic agencies which has only resulted in the problem getting more severe in the wake of the onslaught of some more rains continuously over the past few days. Rampant concretization has ensured that the existing greens choke to their death.

There exist enough guidelines to tackle this problem. Complications arise when such guidelines are not effectively implemented as then the essence of such guidelines is lost and their purpose is not served properly. Nonetheless we do have examples like the drive going on in the posh South Delhi locality of Greater Kailash-1 where a woman and her cronies have ensured and persuaded the MCD, Government and other authorities to go by the rules and remove all the concrete engulfing the trees surrounding their vicinity. It involved a lengthy process of making repeated contacts to the CMO and spreading awareness about the impending hazards of this problem, as much as possible, through whichever means. Though she was met with severe objections among her own neighbours, ultimately people realised the value of such an initiative and came around; and this ceding has resulted in nearly 60 trees being saved from the menace. The numbers speak for themselves. However such stellar examples are difficult to find and even more tough to replicate. It takes two to chime and blaming the civic agencies or the government, even though their duties move around such issues, alone shall not make any problem simpler. Public initiative, honest commitment to make a change and a steely resolve are all essential to ensure that the issue is tackled collectively, to everyone’s benefit. Passing the buck is easy; facing up to the situation is tough. Hence to ensure that the efforts which have been undertaken in one area are repeated in other parts of Delhi to, will mean a huge responsibility on the shoulders of both the authorities concerned and the general public. But if we can achieve this combination, there is nothing which can stop the good work from spreading. And if this rushes up the process of ending the imminent threat concretization poses to our ‘green heritage’, then I personally do feel it’s worth the risk.

Smrithi Suresh

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