By Vikas Vaidya:
‘Urban Greening Guidelines, 2014 is the outcome of blatant and random concretisation of pavements in Indian cities. Of late, a number of Urban Development Authorities and Urban Local Bodies have undertaken large scale concretisation of pavements which has resulted in destruction of a large number of trees by first rendering those weak and reducing their lives and consequently most of them falling down on account of moderate winds and storms. In 2000, Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment had published Guidelines for Greening of Urban Areas and Landscaping. Prior to this, in 1980, Town and Country Planning Organisation (TCPO) had published Guide on Plant Materials for Landscaping in India. While preparing the Urban Greening Guidelines, both the documents have been extensively referred in the context of integrating urban greens in the overall planning and development scenario.
The guidelines suggests steps for protection of trees and enhancing their lives while undertaking concretisation of pavements.’ This was the foreward written by J B Kshirsagar, Chief Planner in the booklet Urban Green Guidelines issued in 2014 by The Metropolitan and UT Division of TCPO, Government of India. Several such guidelines, rules are written but Government’s own bodies don’t follow the same. It is evident from what the authorities have done to the green cover in Nagpur city. There is a keen competition for space in urban areas.
Trees are often found growing in tree pits or planters surrounded with concrete in a paved area, with solid paving very close to the tree trunks. These trees often suffer from severely restricted growing space and the lack of air and water under impermeable surfaces. In some cases, tree roots grow vigorously and even damage the pavement. While in other situations, roots may be cut off or damaged during pavement repair work. In the same guidelines it is said, “It has been observed that many trees and tree branches have fallen in various cities owing to heavy rain and wind. Strong winds apart, concretisation of pavements has much to do with the falling of trees.
Many of the trees are those planted on roadsides as well as on central verges. Over the years, the open area around them has shrunk, having been paved or cemented. This means the roots do not have enough room to spread or grow strong enough. There is no space for new roots to form either. Other weakening factor of roadside trees - regular pruning of branches to make way for overhead utilities, often lopsided due to height, they lose strength to withstand strong winds.” The guidelines points out how the planning for conserving plants along roadside should be made. It says, “Urban green spaces are critical for making our cities sustainable, healthy and energy efficient.
However, for Urban Green Spaces to contribute to the optimum, they have to be planned, designed, developed and managed/maintained appropriately so that they are accessible both in terms of area and population coverage. It is a fact that urbanization in India will continue unabated. The Urban Green spaces generate a diverse set of ecosystems of substantial significance for human well-being and their dynamics are shaped by human activities. Many green spaces in cities that have got disconnected from the wider environment tend to lose biodiversity characteristics due to continuous construction activities. Hence, protecting green spaces in isolation will often fail to sustain the capacity of urban ecosystems to generate value and they have to be well integrated in the overall city landscape.” The guidelines have given thrust on careful maintenance of the trees.
It says, adequate space to be left around trees. A minimum area of 1.25 m x 1.25 m around the trees should be left un-cemented, widening of roads upto the trunk of trees is to be avoided as roots come under the asphalted roads which will gradually die. In case of storm, these trees may topple. Activities which adversely affect the roots are to be minimized. The guidelines guides about digging near the trees. Digging near the trees by allowing telephone, electricity, sewerage lines should be avoided to avoid root injury; sufficient space should be left along the ground for the trees. In no case should roots be exposed. Compactness of soil should be avoided within at least 1.25 m around the tree trunk. Perforated metallic frame may be used for this purpose. Soil surveys around the trees should be done by removing stones.