Taking a stance against damage done to trees, the Delhi forest department directed the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to remove QR tags from 100 trees in Lodhi Gardens Thursday. The action follows a notice issued last week to the council, leading to a probe which has found pervasive damage to trees on which QR codes were affixed.
“As per a 2013 NGT order, nothing can be fixed on trees. So the question of permission does not arise (which the NDMC did not take). There will be an inspection of trees from tomorrow, and further action and penalty will be decided afterwards,” said Deputy Conservator of Forests (South) Saurabh Sharma.
As per the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, the fine amounts to Rs 10,000 per tree. Officials said the NGT order ensures prevention of any damage, especially in the form of hurting nutrition procurement, to the trees.
“Fixing anything on trees leads to infection and causes them to dry up as it disrupts the nutrition flow. In fact, even one nail can seriously cause damage — these QR codes were 10 cm by 10 cm, and in places an inch deep,” said Verhaen Khanna from the New Delhi Nature Society.
Khanna, who inspected the site, said that to attach QR codes, the NDMC had to cut a portion of the trunk. He also claimed that the glue used to fix the tags was also eating up the wood.
“The horticulture department has said it would put wet soil and some medicine on the trees to undo the damage done by the glue. They have a tree ambulance to fix other issues,” Khanna said.
The 2013 NGT order mandates removal of all signboards or nails from trees. “We can put the sign on a stick or stand as an alternative,” added Khanna.
NDMC officials said they never intended to harm the trees. “The tag was, at most, 2 mm deep, not an inch. We have handled trees and this would not have resulted in as much damage as they (forest officials) claim. In the next Tree Census, we will install QR codes with elastic so as to not damage the epidermal cells,” said S Chellaiah, director of the NDMC’s Horticulture Department.
The QR tags were originally intended for inquisitive visitors who could scan the code for additional information about the tree. While only 100 trees were affixed with these tags at Lodhi Gardens, which is home to some exotic species of trees such as baobabs, officials said the plan was to fix QR tags on 4,000 trees across the city.