Know which trees to plant on your street

Roadside trees are a naturally effective way of beautifying our surroundings by breaking the monotony of concrete structures. The value of greenery in today's polluted environment cannot be exaggerated.

We commemorate important events by planting saplings; new layouts are lined with them and bylanes dotted with them. Yet, in the face of unprecedented man-nature conflict, we chop them off at the slightest pretext. This makes the whole endeavour seem as futile as a child painting a beautiful picture and smudging it the very the next moment.

Trees are destroyed not just for fodder and fuel today. In the public arena, the changing topography of our city, its developmental and infrastructural needs, like the road widening and metro projects, lead to the axing of trees that come in their way; in private localities, the housing needs of a bulging population are the culprits.

While destroying the tree cover is a crime against nature, the changing needs of a developing society can hardly be ignored. Urban trees of today are not free to spread and burrow themselves haphazardly.

The relationship a tree nurtures with the community that plants it is a long and deep one; they have to share their space with the locals if they are to survive. Planting a sapling is not an end in itself. Neither is replacing a decades-old tree with a sapling the best solution, because saplings take at least five years to be independent, nor is transplanting easy.

Selective tree planting and scientific and efficient maintenance and would help the trees co-exist with their developing surroundings. Here are some of the problems posed by haphazardly growing trees in private localities:  

a) Their roots penetrate compound walls, footpaths, drains, water connections and buildings themselves causing cracks and damages. They often burrow into the underground water storage tanks to suck up drinking water.

b) Private gardens are the pride of many households. But huge trees like the 'honge' (Indian beech) on roadsides invade personal gardens and rob them of their share of nutrients and sunlight.

c) Their canopies block  the necessary Vitamin D-rich sunlight in these stretches.

d) They litter the place with their leaves and twigs. Rules prevent their burning, small compounds cannot accommodate composts and the dried waste lies unattended due to constant vehicular movement.

e) Unplanned trees become unmanageable with their willowy branches dropping rotting debris on terraces, roofs and parapets causing seepages and leakages while choking the drains at the ground level. Japan manages the litter of its beautiful green cover by plucking ready-to-fall withered leaves, it is said.

The following suggestions may be considered to tackle the problem:  

i) Select trees in proportion to the size of the place which hosts
them. For example, the rain tree
(Samanea saman), the ever ­green honge (Pongamia glabra) and the colourful gulmohar - fast-growing varieties with dense canopies spreading in all directions - are suitable for wide roads and old Bangalore areas like Basavanagudi, Jayanagar, and K R Market rather than residential avenues.

ii) The width of the streets is an important factor while planting trees to prevent them from getting entangled with those on the opposite side of the street and blocking sunlight.

iii) Moderately tall and easily prunable flowering trees that lend sweetness to the surroundings like sampige (Magnolia champaca), parijata (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) and the night queen (Selenicereus grandiflorus) would suit residential areas.

iv) Medicinal plants like neem are insecticides, pesticides and air purifiers; their parts have medicinal properties. In residential areas, they could improve the health of the people.

v) Experts should be roped in to educate people about the nature of saplings with each sapling the public receives tagged with information.

vi) Space between trees and foundations of buildings, water tanks, and the drainage system would prevent them from meddling with the surroundings. Rings and barriers could be used to keep roots in check .

vii) Regular inspection of trees for fungi, white ants etc and a remedy provided could be helpful.

viii) Scientific pruning of branches protects the interest of the trees, as well the localities' by preventing  tree-related accidents.

ix) Chopped branches could be used for light furniture items and artefacts, and the leaves for manure.

It is important that we convert our trees into true friends of localities and save them.

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