Tree Troubles in Namma Bengaluru

S Radha Prathi, May 27, 2015, DHNS

An oft used phrase in our local lingo which is used to console people buried in troubles when roughly translated reads thus. If people don’t have problems, then do you think the trees will have them? Looks like Namma Bengaluru which has been listening to this phrase for a long, long time now has passed on tribulations to its trees.

Hundreds of trees have met their untimely and unexpected end, this year around. Torrential rains punctuated with heavy winds have been identified as the culprits.
Fallen trees are being cut into logs and firewood before being carted away. Loss of life and property, blocked roads and probable inconveniences are being reckoned with and debated upon.

After a certain point of time, the talk is no longer tree-centric. It digresses into the possibilities of people facing greater hazards from the surrounding greenery when the rainy season actually sets in. Authorities are being coerced to work on a prevention plan.
In other words, anxious populace is waiting for a green signal to do away with probable green impediments. Weak trees are being listed out. Trees that are proving to be hurdles in public spaces are also being counted.

The attitude of Bengalureans towards trees is truly perplexing. We have been happily utilising trees around us for domestic, commer-cial, medical or religious purposes. The fresh neem and mango sprouts are used to usher in Ugadi and ease the occasional measles that might have struck the community.

The winter months in Namma Bengaluru can compete for one of the most beautiful cities in the world, by night. Most trees are dressed up in resplendent neon lights and festoons around Diwali. They are seldom taken out even after ushering in the New Year.  The lights nailed to the trunks of the trees look like a series of a new species of giant caterpillars climbing up the bald, leafless trees to meet the little bud like plastic bulbs draped on the nude branches high above during the day.

By the time we enter the second month of the year, tender sprouts appear magically on the trees and unfold a verdant canopy with flowers et al to celebrate spring. Pictures of nature’s glory are splashed by the social networking sites, print and visual media for all to see.

Water crisis

Come summer, the lush green foliage of the trees becomes the much sought umbrella of one and all when the sun shines relentlessly.

As for the trees, they are left to fend for themselves. They cannot expect too much of a city in the middle of a water crisis.

If the trees do think up of alternate solutions and send their roots deep within the bowels of the earth in the hope of finding groundwater, they will be sadly mistaken. For, they are ignorant about the zillion bore wells that have sucked out the life saving liquid.
When the much awaited rains do step in, they instill dread in the hearts of Bengalureans. The very trees who were their cooperative comrades through the year are looked upon as villains waiting to lay hands on their lives and properties.

Yes, the garden city is facing tree troubles. At the same time, we must also realise that trees are also facing troubles. Trees are being pruned to stumps in installments in the name of protecting the common man from facing possible dangers of trees brushing against electricity lines. The areas around the trees are dug to check, repair or install utility cables and pipes.

Never mind if the roots are cut, damaged or forced to absorb sewage. Scalding tar is poured around them during the road making process. Stifling cement is slapped around the base of the tree to contain it.

Nails are driven on the trunks to hold notices and serial bulbs. Wires are stapled onto its branches. Toxic paints are used to paint signs on them. The trees eventually become so weak that they fall at the first onslaught of a heavy wind. If some brave trees manage to live after all that, true blue Bengalureans take the survivor for granted till they are suitably debilitated by the next rainy season.

The damage has been done. It can be reversed. It is not enough if we plant saplings and nourish them. We must give them space, let them grow and most of all let them live!