The Delhi government’s new green helpline (1800118600), launched on June 6 this year, has exposed massive damages being caused to trees in the national capital.
Till August 1, the toll-free helpline has received 120 complaints — 65% of them are SOS calls to save trees from damage.
In these two months, the number, when compared to past years, has gone up by 650%. The earlier tree helpline, which functioned very erratically, had received only 8-9 calls a day in the last few years.
The maximum (42%) number of complaints have come from the south forest division, which comprises south, central and New Delhi areas. At 30%, the west division (north-west, west and south-west Delhi) comes next.
A total of 25% complaints have come from the north division comprising north, northeast and east Delhi areas.
A majority (45%) of complaints are about felling, pruning and other damages to trees. Various government agencies, including the municipal corporations, figure on the list of accused.
Places where such crimes are being committed include IITDelhi, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.
A good 35% calls have been made to request pruning and removal of felled or dangerous trees.
Also, 15% calls have been made about the bases of trees being choked with cement, while 5% complaints are about damaging trees with nails, advertisement boards and metal guards.
Delhi forest department head GN Sinha said, “All calls are being forwarded to division concerned for appropriate action.”
“The earlier helpline was not effective because of a massive shortage of staff in the forest department and lack of publicity. Somebody may pick up the phone but if he’s not an expert, what’s the use? There’s no follow up. There are not enough forest rangers who can rush to the spot,” said a tree expert.