With the Greater Chennai Corporation expediting the stormwater drain related work to finish them ahead of the monsoons, a section of residents and activists have raised concerns over felling of a few trees for the work.
A case in point is the Adyar zone where the work is in full swing at many places and there have been complaints of felling of trees in a few spots. At least three trees, including a palm tree, were felled in Gandhi Nagar while one more was felled in Kasturba Nagar.
A roadside vendor in Gandhi Nagar, requesting anonymity, said the trees felled in the locality were at least 10 to 15 years old. “Apart from intentional felling, a key problem is the use of earthmoving equipment near trees for digging the ground. Mistaken manoeuvring of the equipment can result in trees falling,” he said.
A resident of Kasturba Nagar said that in some places though the trees had not been felled, they had been weakened considerably with their roots being exposed.
T.D. Babu, a trustee of Nizhal, an organisation that works towards conservation, said the damage caused by felling of trees outweighed the benefits of constructing the stormwater drains. He highlighted how residents in some localities had raised doubts over the efficiency of the drains being constructed due to their design and implementation.
He said the compensatory measure of planting saplings elsewhere for the trees felled was not effective as the newly planted saplings were often not taken care properly.
C. Ramakrishnan of Federation of Adyar Residents Association (FEDARA) said that a key issue with the implementation of stormwater drain, including the felling of trees, is the lack of engagement and consultations with the residents’ welfare associations in the localities.
Pointing out that there were approvals needed at senior level for felling of trees, Jayaram Venkatesan, convener of Arappor Iyakkam, said the GCC should be transparent and let the public know if necessary approvals were obtained after considering all the alternatives to avoid the felling.
A zonal-level official from Adyar said one tree in Kasturba Nagar was felled as per the suggestion of the resident as the tree was weak. He said that adequate care was taken to avoid felling in other places. When The Hindu visited the area, the efforts taken in some areas to slightly alter the alignment of the drain to avoid felling of trees nearby were visible.
Felling not allowed
GCC Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said all the officials had been instructed to not take down even a single tree for the work unless and until it was proved that it was absolutely necessary. He said that officials had been asked to consider building the drain around the tree instead of cutting it down.
He said that appropriate action would be taken if there were any complaints of felling of trees for stormwater drain-related works.
Highlighting that GCC was striving hard to improve the city’s green cover, he said: “We are pushing for more and more trees. Around 600 to 700 saplings are planted every fortnight in each zone with the support of residents’ welfare associations. We want more trees. We are unwilling to allow cutting down of any tree for stormwater drain work.”