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Unpruned trees behind spate of problems

Trees that haven’t been pruned for years hide traffic signals streetlights, balconies & damage vehicles

delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2016 18:03 IST
Vibha Sharma
Sarita Vihar, East of Kailash, Defence Colony, Mandakini Enclave and Sheikh Sarai are some of the south Delhi colonies where overgrown trees are giving a hard time to residents.
Sarita Vihar, East of Kailash, Defence Colony, Mandakini Enclave and Sheikh Sarai are some of the south Delhi colonies where overgrown trees are giving a hard time to residents.(S Burmaula / HT Photo)

Facing criticism over inordinate delay in pruning of trees across south Delhi, the horticulture department of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) issued directions to its officials to take up the issue on a priority basis. Section officers of the department have been directed to visit the spot to confirm whether the trees require pruning as soon as they receive complaints.

After that they need to send a report to the forest department of the Delhi government seeking permission for action. They are also expected to inform the complainant about the report. They have been given a deadline of four weeks for the process.

The SDMC admitted that there are frequent complaints for ‘no pruning’ even after the visits of horticulture department’s officials, but maintain that there are various reasons behind the delay. “The lackadaisical attitude of our staff, delay in permission from the forest department, or incomplete details provided by residents are among various reasons which result in delay in taking action. We don’t want any confusion this season, so we have developed a plan and four weeks deadline has been fixed,” said a senior official of the horticulture department.

October is considered to be the best time to carry out cutting or trimming of dead or overgrown branches and stems. The civic agency is planning to start pruning by the end of October. Hence, it has decided to approach the forest department now so that they can get permission on time.

As per the plan, the horticulture department will undertake light pruning of trees that block streetlights, traffic signal or signboards. “We are not required to take permission from the forest department for light pruning that includes the trimming and cutting of small branches. Residents can share the details with us for the same,” said an official of the department.

Meanwhile, the SDMC suggested that the Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) or individuals to request pruning of only 4-5 trees at a time, otherwise it leads to confusion. “Residents or RWAs generally ask for pruning of trees in the entire locality which is impossible,” said an official.

Blame game

While countering the SDMC’s claim that the delay in permission by it causes untimely pruning, Delhi government’s forest department put the blame on the civic body. A senior official of the department says that the SDMC’s indifferent attitude causes reckless trimming. He said that the agency does not prune trees and hires contractors to do the job, who are more interested in as much wood as they can manage to get.

“As per the Delhi Preservation of Tree Act, 1994, light pruning (up to 20cm) can be done without prior permission of the forest department. Or if a tree which becomes dangerous to life and property can be cut immediately. The SDMC is required to inform us within 24 hours. They are aware of the act but blaming us for the delay,” he said.

Amid the blame game, unchecked growth of trees causes nuisance in several south Delhi colonies. Overgrown branches of trees block streetlights, get tangled in cables or cloud balconies. On roads, they are a traffic hazard as their limbs hang too low over pavements and roads. Sometimes, bushy branches cover traffic signals and motorists have to be extra cautious. Residents are scared to park their cars under them.

Overgrown trees in East of Kailash. (S Burmaula / HT Photo)

People from East of Kailash said that trees near gate no 1, 5 and 4 of E block haven’t been pruned for years and they have covered the CCTV cameras there. “We wrote to the deputy forest officer in February asking him to permit trimming of trees bending dangerously low. But we were granted permission for pruning of just one tree. They said that remaining trees would be pruned by the end of this year,” said KK Mittal, E block RWA president. According to him, the roots of a tree near house number 282 are putting pressure on the boundary wall and it has developed cracks.

Last week, two huge trees fell over vehicles following heavy rainfall in Sheikh Sarai area. The incident took place at night and blocked the roads. The SDMC officials arrived the next day. “We mentioned the details of these trees to horticulture department three months back. But they did not take any action,” said Ravi Kumar, resident of C-3 Sheikh Saria II.

The procedure

* After the department receives a request for tree pruning, a section officer visits the site, analyses the condition of trees and makes an estimate of the extent of pruning required.

* The report is sent to the forest department along with a cover letter, an affidavit, an application for pruning or felling of trees, and photos of trees. The form, Form B, available on the website of the department can be submitted at http://delhi.gov.in.

* The permission is generally granted in a month or two and in certain cases it may take three months. A copy of the cover letter is also marked to the applicant who is supposed to follow up the matter the forest department.