Work on drain damages 30 trees in Lodhi Colony

The tree line on both sides of the road has been damaged with digging and cementing work being done within a one-metre radius of the tree trunks. The stretch has old and full-grown trees numbered by the forest department.
The PWD site at Lodhi Road where construction work was going on.(HT photo)
The PWD site at Lodhi Road where construction work was going on.(HT photo)
Updated on Sep 10, 2020 05:36 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Vatsala Shrangi

At least 30 tree bases are believed to have been concretised along Meera Marg-IV Avenue Road in Lodhi Colony during construction of a drain by the Delhi government’s public works department (PWD). Work on a part of the stretch is still on despite the state forest department issuing a ‘stop-work’ order to the agency last week.

The tree line on both sides of the road has been damaged with digging and cementing work being done within a one-metre radius of the tree trunks. The stretch has old and full-grown trees numbered by the forest department.

According to forest department officials, a preliminary assessment of the stretch was done last week. The stop-work order was issued when violations were noticed .

Digging and filling concrete within one metre of a tree trunk is a violation of the National Green Tribunal’s 2015 order and the Delhi Trees Preservation Act, 1994.

Environment activist Verhaen Khanna has filed multiple complaints with the forest department, the PWD and Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai’s office about the violation of green norms during the construction.

“At least 30 trees on the route have been damaged. Some corrective measures were taken by the PWD after the forest department asked them to stop work and restore the trees,” Khanna said.

When HT visited the spot, the roots of a number of trees lay exposed, or covered with fresh soil as a corrective measure by the PWD. Elsewhere, the tree bases were cemented with a gap of less than a metre, blocking the flow of water to its roots.

Piles of concrete and mud were dumped around several trees. A huge Semal tree (no.147) had its roots almost exposed due to digging and fresh soil was put to cover the damage.

Deputy conservator of forests (DCF) South, Amit Anand, said he had issued a ‘stop-work’ order to PWD last week.

“We received a complaint after which we conducted a field inspection. Digging was done too close to the tree trunks (within one-metre radius). Moreover, because of rainfall, the soil ran off the tree surface and its roots were exposed. We asked the agency to take corrective measures to restore the trees and share their plan on how they will carry out rest of the construction without harming the tree line. We have a hearing with PWD officials on Thursday,” Anand said.

“Final orders will be issued after another round of inspection,” he said, adding the stretch has around 30 trees.

A senior PWD official, who did not wish to be named, said they had taken corrective measures. “We will ensure none of the trees is damaged,” the official said.

Khanna said the stretch has a variety of full-grown trees including semal, pilkhan and amaltas. “Concrete around trees causes the roots to become weak. The tree may dry up or die. Damaging trees will also affect the local flora and fauna that depend on trees for food and habitat. I have been repeatedly filing complaints in the matter, but the damage has already been done. The tree line was extending underneath the footpaths, but now the agency dug up at least 5-6 feet deep to construct the drain, which damaged the root system,” Khanna said.

Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist, biodiversity parks programme, Delhi University, said, “When tree roots are covered by tiles or concrete, they are not able to perform their functions of nutrient uptake and moisture absorption, which leads to weakening of the tree. When a tree is weak, it becomes vulnerable to attack of pest and pathogens, which can result in its decay. The maximum mortality in trees occurs post-monsoon, when most of the underground roots are flooded with rain water and the lateral roots responsible for performing major functions, in case being covered with concrete, will not be able to do their work and hence result in gradual decay.”

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