A municipal replantation drive to maintain the tree-lined look of central Delhi’s grand avenues is struggling. The reasons: thefts and vandalism.
According to the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), between 150 and 200 trees in the area have fallen each year over the past five years, mainly due to storms and drying up.
The NDMC’s attempts to replace these have failed because of “tree thieves”.
“While we’re replanting two to three times more than what is required, vandalism is affecting the drive,” said Subhash Chandra, director, horticulture, NDMC. Chandra said the neem tree was a particular favourite of thieves. “People pluck saplings to use them as toothbrushes,” he said. “Also, the bark of full-grown trees such as the arjun is peeled off because it has medicinal value.”
Of the 95,000 trees in the NDMC area, 10,000 are old ‘avenue trees’. These were planted after 1911, when the capital of the British Empire moved from Calcutta to Delhi, and Edwin Lutyens planned the new city.
The NDMC has tried to safeguard the plants by putting up tree guards and bamboo sticks around them.
But the problem persists. “On many stretches, even the tree guards are being stolen,” said an NDMC official.