By Verhaen Khanna
The battle to protect the environment has been going on since the time humans have walked this planet. There have been those who want to save the environment with all its beauty for future generations to flourish and then there have been those who may have allowed greed and selfishness to overcome their desires. With every tree felled, several wildlife creatures have lost their lives. And due to all this, the pollution in the world has increased.
Many of us, much more than you can imagine, have actually felt like helping a tree in distress, and many have done something about it. Even though some folks have no knowledge of saving trees, their instincts came alive. They either propped up a plant with a stick, maybe gave water to a plant, or used rope to support it, perhaps removed nails or cement from trees, stopped others from cutting trees, called the police to stop the tree cutting and, in one case, environmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill stayed on a tree for nearly two years to prevent it from being chopped down.
Many people are planting new saplings these days, which is highly recommended in the world today, given the rate of felling across the globe and in our very own cities and neighbourhoods. However, while the plantations must carry on to outnumber the illegal loggers, it is way more important to focus on saving the existing trees. These trees have used the country’s natural resources for decades and are an asset to your loved ones and you. A 50-year-old tree is not equal to a tiny sapling, or even 10 or a thousand saplings. The number of leaves it bears is unmatched, as are the length of its roots preventing soil erosion and the amount of carbon it can absorb. And no birds are going to nest on saplings either.
We had a recent case in New Delhi, where two residents were angry after a tree fell in a storm. One resident had a damaged car while the other just wanted it gone and had chopped the lower branches. With help from the authorities, they removed the voiceless tree to another location. All the original soil was washed off from the roots before placing it elsewhere, leaving it with zero chances of survival.
We often see the elderly with walking sticks and the same can be done for an old tree leaning over. If we build a support, it can live longer.
Below are some problems with their solutions, which your children and you can try when you see a tree in distress.
Tree leaning to one side
Build a support pillar.
Tree needs rope support?
Imagine tying a fractured arm around your neck. Don’t constrict it, keep an open loop between the tree and support. Would you constrict your neck for the arm support?
Tree fell in a storm?
Dig a pit in the original location without damaging roots so that the tree can be set in place. Make the canopy lighter so the trees center of gravity is lower. Add fertiliser or garden compost along with fresh soil and some termite repellent if required. You will have to hire a crane to lift the tree. 5 trees rescued and documented by us
De-choke the trees by removing cement from around the base, up to 1 metre on each side. One can ask the local horticulture department to help or simply hire local manpower to do the needful.
Nails on trees?
This causes infections in trees and damages nutrition flow. You can use a nail remover (the back of a hammer).
Wires or banners on trees?
These can be easily untied or released with a small blade. Constricting the tree causes weak points where branches break. As the branches try to grow thicker, the wires tied there don’t allow the tree to grow. Just imagine wearing a small steel bangle as an infant and as the years go by, you never remove the bangle.
Digging or construction near trees.
There is an NGT (National Green Tribunal) order stating that no construction or digging should happen within 1 metre of trees. Destroying the roots causes the trees to lose grip in the soil. This order was passed in 2013 for all departments in Delhi.
What is tree felling?
It is definitely not the past tense of a tree falling, which many educated people have often mistaken. “To fell a tree” with its cognate expression, means severing the trunk from the roots, uprooting the tree and includes bulldozing, cutting, girdling, lopping, pollarding, applying arboricides, burning, or damaging a tree in any other manner, according to the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994.
According to Article 51A (G) of the Constitution of India, to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures is a fundamental duty.
If a tree is being cut, try to stop those people immediately. Click pictures. Ask them for the permission papers. No permission? Dial 100 for the police helpline or inform the forest department by phone or email.
All the trees in the state belong to the forest department of that state, even if it was grown by you from a seed within your own property. There have been cases of trees being cut for sunlight or because a tree has “too many” flowers, falling leaves or birds chirping, all illegal reasons and for which the forest department has collected heavy penalties from offenders.
So, do try to save trees and teach your children to do the same at a young age. Trees are keeping us breathing and we must return the favour. Until then, don’t forget to water the trees around your own home.
(The writer is founder of the New Delhi Nature Society (NDNS), which organises regular events for children and families, such as tree climbing, nature walks and camping. Follow on social media @newdelhinaturesociety)