THE CHANDIGARH Administration installed small indicative boards near the heritage trees it identified last year. One such small board cost a whopping Rs 8,560, which is almost equal to the monthly salary of a daily wager.
Information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that the department of forest and wildlife installed 24 such boards near the trees and five more are to be installed. The exercise which could have been done in a few thousands will cost almost Rs 2.50 lakh to the exchequer.
The RTI application was filed by Sector 36 resident L R Budaniya. He had sought information as to how many heritage trees were identified, how many boards were installed, their cost and how many boards are still left to be installed there.
The chairman of the Federation of Sectors Welfare Association, Baljinder Singh Bittu, said that it was a sheer wastage of public money. “This board could have cost a maximum of Rs 1,000 only and not nine times more the way they have shown. This is completely a wasteful expenditure.”
He added, “They are short of funds but they are always ready to carry out this wasteful expenditure. If this amount could have been spent on the patchwork of the potholed roads, commuters would not have faced such troubles while driving in the city.”
The department of forest and wildlife had carried out a survey to identify the heritage trees in the city. According to the department, Gurdwara Shapur, Sector 38, is home to one of the oldest and widest banyan trees of the city, which is around 300 years old. Locals believe that this tree was there during the times of the Sikh gurus. It has a large canopy and under it, the soft breeze provides a much-needed respite from the day’s heat.
The survey had found that the second oldest is the banyan tree at Indira Holiday Home located in a park which is considered an ‘eco spot’. The tree has five main trunks and a very wide canopy. There are other trees of interest too in its proximity. The park is a haven for birds and squirrel, and old trees like this banyan sustain that ecosystem.
Basanti Devi Sheetala Mata Temple in Sector 24 has in its enclosure a peepal tree whose canopy’s circumference is about 345 feet. The dangers faced by heritage trees due to rapid urbanisation and natural threats are many.