Green activists in the Capital feel the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) tree ambulance initiative should be expanded to all civic and land-owning agencies.
Suhas Borker of Green Circle, a civil society initiative which contributed to the launch of this facility in February 2010, said: “A number of calls to save trees come from non-NDMC areas as well. Last month, a tree needed surgery in Okhla industrial area under the South Municipal Corporation of Delhi. We have told the state government that Delhi needs six more ambulances — three for the civic agencies and one each for the Delhi Development Authority, Public Works Department and the Delhi cantonment board areas.”
The ambulance —a green truck with warning lights and siren, carrying tree washers, sprayers, pruners, manure reserves and chainsaws — has so far, treated and saved 150 trees. The number could have been larger, had the service not been restricted to just the NDMC area. The facility has a crew of six people trained at the Forest Institute of India, Dehradun, and gets 8-10 calls a day.
“One ambulance — which costs Rs. 14 lakh — is not enough. We have demanded funds for more ambulances under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission as assured by chief minister Sheila Dikshit in 2010 when she launched the service. Plus, there has to be a central helpline. None exists at the moment,” said Sudhir Bhutani, another tree activist.
“The ambulance needs to be redesigned, keeping in mind the experience of the past two years,” he said. “There is no tree census in Delhi. In 2009, the government set up parks and garden society but there has not been any census. Officials depend heavily on remote sensing,” Bhutani said.
Apart from routine inspection and pruning, the crew treats diseased trees and does critical tree surgeries. Jitendra Kaushik, assistant director, horticulture, NDMC, said, “Most of these cases are regarding termite infestation, washing and heavy pruning. We have treated 150 major cases, including those of surgery.”
About 200 grown-up trees die every year during storms, because of drying up and lack of necessary treatment. “The NDMC’s jurisdiction may be small, but 46% of its area is green with about 1 lakh trees. So, it’s important that we look after the trees properly in the NDMC areas. The service can be expanded to other parts of the city,” said a senior official.