Despite strict penal provisions such as jail term in government statutes for causing harm to trees, Delhi's green cover bleeds but because of weak enforcement.
A recent move by a group of citizens to conduct a tree census in south Delhi's tony Sarvodaya Enclave was hailed by many. But a follow-up exercise revealed shocking details.
Nails, iron rods and hooks had been hammered into over 100 of the 700 trees counted. General callousness can be gauged from the state of a Baikin tree which had as many as 22 nails hammered deep inside its trunks.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, these items, weighing 3.5kg, were removed.
"An aim of this census was to learn about the health of the trees and causes of harm, besides doing rescue work," said Padmavati Dwivedi, who led a census team in Sarvodaya Enclave.
Preeti Bhardwaj, a volunteer, said, "We approached the municipal corporation. Two horticulture department staffers came but we had to arrange pliers and hammers. They said they had never been involved in such a rescue operation."
"First, people choke trees with cement, and then they hammer nails into them. Growing trees change directions to avoid these onslaughts but wounds make them weak and they finally die a slow death," Bhardwaj said.
"The biggest difficulty we faced was in getting and maintaining support from residents," said Dwivedi. In the absence of a census, plans for protection and addition of green cover have not been effective.
"We will get tough with those harming trees. We're starting a tree census for this reason," said a forest department official.