In Chennai, a person felling a tree has to obtain prior permission from the Greater Chennai Corporation. Also, the corporation has no policy to maintain avenue trees. In the last one year, since July 2018, trees have been cut down to lay storm water drains in Anna Nagar and Poonamallee High Road, build pedestrian walks for malls in T. Nagar, and make way for government official vehicles in Natesan Nagar.
About 16 years back, the Madras high court had ordered the state government to form a tree authority and ordered planting of 50 saplings as compensation of every tree cut, none of which was followed by the forest department. But a mature tree felled is a loss and planting a sapling takes it years to grow back into a full-fledged tree and cannot compensate for the immediate loss of the green cover. Also, such saplings seldom survive due to poor maintenance.
Anoop Kumar, an organic farming and horticulture consultant, believes that this type of strategy of planting saplings will only work if there is a policy made to maintain it. “Many a times the corporation plants trees in open spaces or alongside highways and this is done just for publicity and a photograph. But the truth is that they get busy and are hardly seen coming back to maintain or water the saplings. This compensatory act makes no sense if the saplings die. Instead the nearby shops and residents can be made responsible for its maintenance and a compensation or recognition can be provided for them instead. This will also make them feel attached to the plant as it grows and they will prevent felling of it in future”.
A series of tree saplings were planted along the side of Rosary Church Street in Santhome a few months back in an attempt by the Greater Chennai Corporation to replace the green cover but so far, no one has been spotted caring for it as was promised by GCC who said they had appointed a contractor.
Nizhal (shade), an organization to speak for trees, formed a trust to promote concern for trees in the city in 2005. Nizhal has been actively involved in various greening activities around the city, has conducted several tree walks, tree surveys and “free the tree” campaigns.
“New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru have set ground rules in the 1970s to prevent tree felling, but unfortunately Chennai lacks such guidelines or authority. Chennai lacks a tree authority that can bring such deterrents to task and avoid felling of trees in the first place”, says Shobha, founder of Nizhal. “Planting indigenous species of saplings is very important. Citizens can be watchdogs for mature trees across the city and monitor it to care for its well-being.”
If you see someone who is felling a tree in the city, you can ask for the written permission slip by the Corporation. Report abuse of trees/tree felling by calling the Chennai Corporation at 1913 or through the Namma Chennai app.