Call centre to conserve the green cover?

The City, time and again has been witness to controversies revolving around the cutting of trees and their concretisation. In spite of all this, the common man is becoming more aware of the harmful effects of losing tree cover.

The credit for this goes to tree activ­ists and a few aware people who oppose every move by the government which allows tree felling. They are either fighting legal battles in National Green Tribunal (NGT) or constantly making efforts to educate people about their duties to raise a voice for the depleting green cover.

In a bid to appear supportive, the Delhi government is all set to start a call centre to receive complaints about cutting of trees anywhere. It sounds a bit arbitrary that at a time when Delhi government officials are struggling to comply with the High Court orders for preserving age-old trees, they are also assuring people of taking action on complaints about tree-cutting in their areas!

It should not surprise you but the Department of Environment is still struggling to remove all kinds of signboards, electric wires and nails from the trees in several parts of the City. Worse, little has been done by the concerned departments to de-concretise the area around trees. Similarly, people are struggling to prevent the cutting of 2000 trees from Meera Bagh-Vikaspuri and Mangolpuri to Madhuban Chowk. In such a situation, will a helpline really prove to be an effective solution?

“As far as I remember the concept of tree helpline number was introduced in Delhi some 10 years ago. But, nothing actually happened,” says Vimlendu Jha, MD, Swechha, a City-based youth run NGO, engaged in environment issues. “The call centre will definitely turn out to be a useless move till the time policy makers don’t complement it with strict action against violators,” he says.

According to Vimlendu, there is no dearth of policies but there is a lack of political will to implement them. He also remarks on the lax attitude of the government and the unwillingness to find a solution to other environmental problems like pollution in Yamuna.

Similarly, Aditya N Prasad, a law student who has been fighting a legal battle against the government on concretisation of trees says, “What will a call centre do? At a time when government is struggling with legal cases on the conservation of trees, how will they solve the new complaints registered by people through this centre?”

However, environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta sounds optimistic and answers Aditya. “A call centre will help people in knowing about the procedure for filing a complaint. Today, many people are unaware about the rules under Preservation of Trees Act 1996. They don’t know whether the complaint will registered against Horticulture, Delhi Development Authority or Public Welfare Department. Through this helpline number, more and more people will definitely come together to save the green cover.”

According to him, there are only a few people who are fighting legal battles against cutting of trees. “If we have one activist from every locality, only then can pressure be mounted for protection of trees,” say Ritwick. He, however, does not deny that in the absence of proper infrastructure, the initiative to start a call centre might take a setback.

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