The monsoon has once again led to trees falling in the city while the BBMP which is supposed to take precautions against trees being uprooted in rain looked on helplessly. With its forest wing understaffed, the civic agency claims it finds it difficult to identify the weak trees vulnerable to gusty winds and rain and take necessary action before the monsoon sets in. But Bengalureans, who have to put up with their streets strewn with fallen trees and branches for days are in no mood for excuses anymore and want the BBMP to do its job efficiently. Aknisree Karthik reports
It is a scene that is played out in every spell of heavy rain. Once the storm passes, the city is strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches that remain on the streets for days at times until angry people complain about them restricting movement in their neighbourhoods.
It’s no different this year too. Since May when the pre-monsoon showers began, over 2,000 trees and branches have fallen in the city, going by the complaints received by the BBMP Control Room. The figure could be even higher as not all tree falls are reported. At many spots trees left two-wheelers, cars and even houses damaged as they came crashing down.
“During the heavy rain in July a big tree in a park in Gavipuram fell on the car parked on the road outside. It badly damaged the car and broke its windshield. But no one came to remove it for days,” complained Mr Puttaraju, a resident of Gavipuram.
Ask mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun about the large number of trees continuing to fall in rain in the city and she says the BBMP’s forest wing does not have enough staff to identify the old and weak ones that are most vulnerable to gusty winds and downpours.
“They only had seven teams. But since July we have given them more teams. At present there are nearly 21 teams working to remove fallen trees,” she says, promising things will be better in future.
Environmentalist, Akshay Heblikar, agrees that the BBMP has too much on its plate and not enough resources to be able to run the city efficiently. “For a city like Bengaluru, it should have over 50 teams to manage tree falls. But the BBMP forest wing does not have even10 teams. Then how can we expect it to clear the streets of fallen trees immediately?” he reasons.
In his view, the BBMP should rope in NGOs and other institutions to help it tackle the situation.“ It could take the help of NGOs and other organisations to clear the fallen trees,” he suggests.
Blaming the BBMP’s failure in identifying weak and old trees for the number that come uprooted in heavy rain, Mr Heblikar says if it is short staffed and does not have the men needed to do the job, it should make use of students of the agriculture department or staff of the horticulture department and even NGOs with expertise in the area to identify and remove them.
“Identifying weak and old trees is a continuous process. They should be removed before the monsoon sets in,” he recommends. Also maintaining that trimming and pruning of trees should be done sensibly, he says, “ We cannot chop off everything that touches an electric pole. This will only shift the centre of balance in the trees. Pruning and trimming should be done scientifically as otherwise even healthy trees , whose balance has shifted, can come down in rain.”
But keen on nipping the problem in the bud, he feels the BBMP needs to be more sensible in its choice of trees for the city too. “Species like Pongamia, Neem, Muntingia, and Magnolia Champaca should be planted along the main roads and not Raintrees,” he stresses
Clear pruned tree branches from roads, pavements
Unfortunately, it’s not only the rain that brings down trees in the city, but also its incompetent civic agencies. Says a resident of Indiranagar, “It has been almost a year since the officials of the BBMP came and chopped off the coconut trees next to my house for some drain work. Since then a dead tree has been lying on the footpath and the BBMP has not bothered to remove it.”
The problem is not confined to Indiranagar, but is common to many parts of the city where people find that despite their repeated complaints, the BBMP does nothing to remove the trees that it has brought down for one or the other reason.
While pruning trees is a must for their health and people’s safety, the BBMP often comes in for brickbats for the manner in which it goes about this too People like Ms Jayamma of Hanumanthanagar have had enough and are demanding that the civic agency wake up. Says she,“A big problem with the civic bodies is that when they come to trim the tree branches touching the electric lines and poles, they chop them according to their whims and fancies and leave all the branches strewn on the road. In some areas, people collect the branches and use them as fire wood, while in others they remain on the roads and footpaths for months together.”
Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun too agrees that fallen trees and branches are left uncleared by the BBMP , but claims that she will soon tackle the problem. “ I will soon have a meeting with the officials of the BBMP’s forest wing to see what they are doing,” she assures.
Q&A: We are open to new ideas, says Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun
Hundreds of trees have fallen in the city since May when the pre-monsoon showers began. What action have you taken to prevent this?
The BBMP forest wing did not have enough staff to identify the old and weak trees (that are vulnerable to gusty winds and rain). It only had seven teams. But since July, we have given them more and now they have nearly 21 teams working to remove fallen trees.
Increasing the staff of the BBMP’s forest wing doesn’t seem to have helped as even today you find fallen trees lying on roads and footpaths for days together.
Yes, I am aware of this. At many places trees are still lying uncleared. After giving the forest wing more manpower, I haven’t had the time to review its work. I will soon have a meeting with the officials of the forest wing to see what they are doing.
Environmentalists suggest that the BBMP should tie- up with NGOs and experts in identifying old and weak trees and also to scientifically prune them.
We are open to such ideas. I will discuss it with the forest wing. As for identifying old and weak trees and removing them, the BBMP commissioner feels we need to go by the suggestions of the tree committee.