Safety at stake

Safety at stake
The monsoon is still far away but every time there’s a downpour in city, trees are getting uprooted and branches are falling in scores, exposing the poor urban planning and unscientific management of trees.

Experts  blame it on the failure of the forest wing of the BBMP to prune the weak branches and the poor laying of footpaths, especially around tree trunks. Environmentalists say planting of trees must be taken up scientifically if they are to not fall at the slightest hint of a heavy rain. Most of the time, the bark of trees is eaten by termites and the first thing that needs to be done to save trees and prevent branches from falling, is taking up a pre-monsoon surgery, suggests environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy.

He also feels the BBMP must conduct a survey to assess the strength of trees in the city before the monsoon arrives. “This assessment will help identify the dead and partially dead portions of a tree. These could be the branches or even the bark. A diseased tree will lose its strength over a period of time because the sap wood which is essential for the transportation of food and water to the rest of the parts gets rotten and dies a slow death. This affects the stability of the tree,” he explains. About why do trees get uprooted, he says, “The external pressure and lack of water creates an imbalance and this is what causes the tree to get uprooted.” 

The choice of sapling and the site of planting play a crucial role in strengthening the life of the trees, reasons Vijay Nishanth, an urban conservationist and part of the Project Vruksha Foundation. Vijay says there is a lack of availability of prior data on the health of existing trees and a complete absence of the continuous evaluation of the same.

 “At a time when Bengaluru hadn’t developed, a lot of copper pod trees were planted along the pavements. This is a exotic plant that cannot withstand strong and gusty winds. The short trees are safest choice to be planted on the road side. They don’t provide as much shade but serve the purpose,” he reasons. Vijay, who moves around in a two-wheeler, says that it is risky to ride whenever it’s raining. “The fear of branches falling on the rider or driver is always at the back of my mind whenever it starts raining. Hope the authorities will take note of this,” he says.

Dr T V Ramachandra of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, the Indian Institute of Science, thinks maintenance of green cover is the need of the hour in urban areas with increase in paved surfaces due to urbanisation. “Selection of plant species for planting at road sides require utmost care. Exotic species flower greatly but fail to stand during harsh winds and after a certain age, the strength of the root fails to hold the tree to the soil and hence, fall during monsoon, which creates a major problem,” explains Ramachandra. The road-widening projects have led to the mindless felling of trees and this has also weaken the roots of the existing trees, says Runcy O, a software professional.

He thinks more than pruning the trees, people should stop dumping garbage into stormwater drains. “Du­mping garbage into stormwater drains clogs it and forces water to flow onto the roads. This causes it to stagnate around the base of tree which weakens it. This is also one of the reasons for the uprooting of trees.”

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