Delhi’s peaceful protests for trees need your support

By now everyone is aware of the felling of trees in Delhi for the purpose of “redevelopment”, wherein 7 old government colonies are being dismantled to make way for a more efficient infrastructure

After the news broke of the government approval for the felling of 16000 trees around eight locations in Delhi, this announcement faced a massive backlash from the citizens and prompted the court to issue a stay order till July 4th. The NBCC (the contractor for the redevelopment) also issued a press release stating that it will not cut any more trees till the court’s hearing.  Even though this can be seen as a minor victory, the war is not over yet. In fact, with barely any legal roadblocks in terms of ownership of land or legal rights over it,  overturning or stopping the plans is a tall order. But making sure this abuse of the environment, and the outrage over it, is not wasted is definitely an opportunity. That would mean pushing for changes in the plan to save larger groups of trees, and possibly get a bigger green and common areas created.   One of the features of the colonies earlier was the fact that they were fairly open and accessible to all. That feature must be retained, at least vis a vis the green areas.

With the Delhi state government pledging its support the movement for saving trees, it is critical to get them on board for bigger changes and a more evolved attitude to the handling of the city’s trees and greenery. They can always make unilateral changes, and why them, even the multiple municipal corporations of the city need to pledge a more concerted approach to protection and further greening. Because, irrespective of the outcome at Sarojini Nagar and others, the fact is that the city’s lungs, its forests and other green areas, are under a concerted assault in the name of beautification, ornamental parks, and worse.  Natural growth and forests are under attack everywhere, to be replaced by useless ornamental shrubs and pygmy trees, with no value to offer other than a patch of green relief for the eyes.

Everyday the “Delhi Trees SOS” organizes gatherings around Netaji/Sarojini Nagar to protest on a daily basis against the felling of trees, today they joined hands with Ploggers of India” where over 30 people ran/cycled or jogged from Nehru Park to Netaji Nagar (where the trees are being cut) in a show of protest and to offer support to the cause of saving trees.

The event which started off with a lot of gusto at Nehru Park soon turned into a somber event with people in sheer shock to see the extent of devastation done to the areas natural vegetation.

The volunteers soon started tying placards around the few remaining trees in the area with slogans in order to save them and build awareness among others by making the trees in symbols. Ultimately the volunteers made a human chain around the biggest banyan tree and sang “hum honge kamyab” as well as the national anthem.

“Trees are our natural lungs we need to save them, cutting them down on a massive scale would ultimately have an adverse effect on us” said a one gentleman who was participating in the event.

Ploggers of India

When we asked the organizer Ripu Daman (who also heads Ploggers of India) on what he makes of the statement issued by the NBCC where they claim to plant saplings and translocate 10 foot trees in order to compensate for the 16000 trees. He smiled and said, “Where in India has the government ever successfully translocated trees, we are cutting down healthy, fully grown trees that have been growing for decades just to plant saplings. Can the government actually guarantee that the saplings planted will grow into thriving trees? Also, with the current climatic situation, we’ll be the ones facing the brunt of cutting down these trees as it’ll take the saplings decades to grow and what exactly are we to do till then, can the government guarantee that the air quality won’t degrade till then?”

The burning questions left by Ripu highlight what every citizen wants and deserves to know. We are putting our and our planets life at stake. Why can’t any redevelopment plan start only after work on compensatory greening and the likes have been started and demonstrated?  What sort of asinine lawmakers allowed the cutting of so any trees without a tough question, for a government housing project? In a city that has been starved of public spaces, why wasn’t this opportunity used to redevelop and create larger public spaces, and create the needed housing in the suburbs, especially Noida? In short, what will it take for the government to take the blinders off when it comes to its own? Our cities belong to all its citizens, not the ‘mistakes’ we elect to administer it for a period.

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