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57 iconic ‘avenue’ trees on Delhi’s Akbar Road face axe for govt projects

When sections of New Delhi were built, the new city was divided into different “avenues” and a series of trees were planted for beauty in each avenue.

delhi Updated: Jul 04, 2018 12:22 IST
Soumya Pillai
Soumya Pillai
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Akbar Road,Gujarat Sadan,Delhi trees
Under construction site of Ministry of Trade and Commerce at New Delhi’s Akbar road where trees have been chopped. (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

Driving through central Delhi, as you enter Akbar Road, a canopy of imli (tamarind) trees shade you from the sweltering heat. The trees were planted during British rule, and some of these trees date back 70 to 80 years. However, 25 trees have been cut to build a state guest house — the new Gujarat Sadan.

When sections of New Delhi were built, the new city was divided into different “avenues” and a series of trees were planted for beauty in each avenue. At least 57 of these “avenue trees” have been felled for the construction of the guest house and another building on this stretch.

Environment experts said that the Delhi government has done nothing to protect these “avenue trees”. The process to cut these historically significant trees is the same as that for any other tree in the city.

On Akbar Road, the work for two government projects — the construction of the new Gujarat Sadan for which 25 trees have been cut, and the construction of Vanijya Bhawan for which 32 fully-grown trees will be razed — have started.

Documents show that the permission for the cutting of 25 trees for Gujarat Sadan was received in August last year, while for Vanijya Bhawan permission was sought in January this year. The permission to cut another 96 trees for the construction of 120 flats for senior central government employees at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg was also granted by the forest department this year. Environment experts said many of these trees that have been mindlessly chopped off in the heart of the national Capital not only provided shade and was good for Delhi’s alarming air-pollution levels, but were also of historic relevance.

Author and ecological gardener Pradip Krishen said the tamarind trees along Akbar Road were planted around 1920s by the British in Delhi. Over the years, however, an inner avenue was formed on the sides of the road by planting amaltas trees.

“Until the recent collective anguish by citizens, government agencies were having an ‘open season’ for cutting trees in the city. The focus is not on planning or reimagining the city, but to only destroy what exists,” Krishen said.

Krishen said that every lane of Lutyens’ Delhi contains a story of Delhi’s past. If one notices one will see that each avenue has a specific variety of tree planted through, he said. This was done as a means to navigate the city’s roads.

“There were many avenues in Lutyens’ Delhi. They initially only chose 13 species of trees and slowly expanded to 16 species, which they planted along various avenues,” he said.

Despite several attempts, Delhi government’s principal chief conservator of forests Jayashree A Chauhan could not be contacted for a comment on the process of permissions for the felling of avenue trees in Delhi.

Ravi Agarwal, environmentalist and former member of the Delhi government’s Tree Authority, said that these old trees make the city “what it is” and attempts should be made to protect these.

“It is not to say that if the trees are not old they deserve to be cut. The problem lies with the procedure. There is no transparency. An independent body away from the forest department needs to examine permissions for tree felling in the city,” he said.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 12:21 IST