Tree-planting – the sordid story!

Well it’s not just a photo-op, yet another occasion for ‘profound’ platitudes. Know more, you will feel as I do .

Yes, every time I get an invitation to attend these tree-planting exercises, I get annoyed, irritated, frustrated and curse my own helplessness.  How so? Let me explain.

As you get down at Egmore railway station, notwithstanding the bullying of the autowallahs, look to your left and then to your right. Things have changed. The road has been widened, new customer-friendly hotels (small-food and big-food) have sprung up, parking is getting streamlined and if all this is good news here’s something that would disturb the concerned mind – Not a single tree anywhere around. Growth and development has no place for trees and these are treated as hazards to progress. If there are hurdles remove them in toto. Unwritten Law that aids builders and contractors and the nation thus sweats more profusely than ever.

The other road is the much talked about Assembly-Road with this massive structure at the extreme end of the road, with Arignar Anna leading from the front. But shouldn’t he be facing the Assembly constantly admonishing his brethren?

Kalaivanar Arangam has been brought down and with it, the row of trees too that had their majestic presence on this road. Dear two-wheelers, do you remember – if you took to the corner of the road you used to drive in fine shade in the not-so-distant past –  something similar to driving along certain stretches of New Avadi Road or the road housing those railway offices (Railway Hospital too) at Ayanavaram?

But the ‘first ever green Assembly complex’ has only meant a heart-wrenchingly barren sight.  So much for the environmental concerns of our law-makers.

If Kerala is God’s own country it is because of the vegetation that surrounds its people. Indira Gandhi had said somewhere, that she wanted Thiruvanthapuram to be adopted as model while developing cities and she primarily must have meant the relative abundance of trees.  Trees, vegetation and flora and fauna are really functional and Kerala seems to know that better. And Tamilnadu – is it Satan’s Den or what?

One also understands there are many tree-wardens around but what could be their role?

At the Ayanavaram bus-stand many saplings were planted. The bus terminus was spruced up for this event and each sapling had a tree guard around it. Great are the intentions of the powers-that-be, one thought, in protecting these trees against cattle and human invasion.

Hold it! Each tree guard cost you (yes you the tax-payer and not the idiomatic you) 400 bucks some 3 years back. Any welding vendor would have been happy to make it for 150 bucks, as it had the simplest of structures. Calculate the difference and multiply it by the number of tree-guards supplied and you’ll know who-gets-what. Harshad Metha and Ramalinga Raju can take a lesson or two. Small-level corruption that goes  unnoticed and who cares. Transport Corporation is serving society, gentlemen. I guess the saplings’ cost-benefit analysis would also gather enough papers worthy of a probe.

And then these saplings planted opposite The Music Academy have refused to grow over the years. Who is to water them? Please prepare a note and submit it to the Chief Secretary. He, if time permits, will decide which department has to do the watering regularly. In the meanwhile somebody would have filed a writ questioning the propriety of the executive in deciding who does what, and the judge would be ready to deliver a judgment asking for a national debate. Again, three cheers to Democracy?

Coming to think of it, well, we shouldnt turn down the invites for the so-called tree-planting functions.  We must all go and grill the organizers  – on the cost of the tree-guards, the senseless grow-here and kill-elsewhere policy, the follow-up action envisaged to nurture these saplings and anything else you as conscientious citizens ought to ask.

Citizen-journalism? May be! Let’s give it a shot.

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