Over 250 Alstonia Scholaris trees in Sector 49 D have been painted in tricolour by the local Residents Welfare Association (RWA) in violation of the Chandigarh Tree Preservation Act 1952. The trunks have been painted saffron, white and green using oil paints, which experts say, cause “irreversible damage” to the trees.
The Act prohibits any action that causes destruction of trees in the Union Territory. On Wednesday evening, after the horticulture department of Municipal Corporation Chandigarh raised objections, the RWA tried to cover up the oil paints by whitewashing the tricolour.
According to the Residents Welfare Association General Secretary Subhash, the trees were painted as part of a “beautification” drive. “We just wanted to do something new. There was no other intention. They were looking dull, so we decided to go ahead with this idea,” he said, adding, “We thought one colour would look odd… so the concept of tricolour struck us. We also thought Republic Day is coming and it will instill a feeling of patriotism among the residents as well. It didn’t require much funds.” It took the RWA a week to paint all the trees.
Executive engineer of horticulture department, Krishan Pal Singh, said the residents’ body is newly-elected, so they were not aware of the rule. “I have asked them to remove the paint as soon as possible. They have now painted the trunk white, which even our department does during special occasions.” However, the whitewash may not help.
“The cells of the trees have already been damaged with the oil paint. Any kind of oil paint causes blockage in the conduction channels. Even if they are putting whitewash over the oil paint, it is of no use because the damage has already been done,” a horticulturist, formerly with Punjab Agriculture University, who did not want to be named, told Chandigarh Newsline.
Environmentalist Rahul Mahajan told Chandigarh Newsline that paints are toxic in nature and they will affect the life of the tree. “They should not have done it at all. Sometimes tree trunks are painted white that is with a lime wash mixed with fungicides and insecticides to protect them from insects and fungal diseases.”
Rajnish Wattas, former principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, and eminent landscape designer echoed: “It’s just not done. It has to be stopped immediately, or else others will start following suit, and who knows, there may be artists who will start using tree trunks for public art.”
A member of the association said that some residents too had objected, but for a different reason, and that is why the RWA had decided to whitewash the tricolour. “We told the president that it is giving an impression that we are supporting the Congress party as their symbol is similar and thus this immediate decision was taken to reverse the paint.”
Local Councillor of the area, Heera Negi of the BJP, said she was not aware of it since she was not in Chandigarh. “But, they can’t paint the trees. It is against the Chandigarh rules. They must not be knowing it. I will tell them.”
Known also as the Saptaparni, the tree flowers in October and November and fill up the air with a heady fragrance.