Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tree Talk

Almost everyday, as I curse and swear my way to office in sweltering heat, I see chopped tree limbs, a sad stump or uprooted trees strewn at various points of my journey. If you take the time and trouble to ask why the tree has fared thus, the answer is likely to be a variation of one of the following:

  1. The tree was about to fall; its roots had become very weak
  2. The road is being expanded

Both the answers, you would have to admit, are as reasonable as they come.

If you counter question with, “When you chop off a tree, should you not plant another in its stead?”, you would discover that this question apparently is not very reasonable to ask. Not your business, you would be told in very firm and hopefully polite tones.

The other week, a big, beautiful coconut tree in the compound of a building next to my home was cut down. “The tree was so weak at roots that it could have fallen onto the building across the lane any day”, my mother explained to me the culprit’s reasoning.

I was appalled. If the tree’s roots were weak, whose fault was it? Who was responsible for laying house foundations in such a way that the roots loosened their hold on the soil?

And now that the deed has been done in the name of safety, has a new sapling been planted? The answer to this question, expectedly, is ‘no’

What is worse that it is not just private property owners who are responsible for such blatant massacre of the city greenery but also the government. We need the flyovers and the highways, the eight lane roads and bypasses to airport (it is another matter that they take an eternity to become functional). So, the trees lining the existing roads have to be sacrificed. But how about re-planting them? And if there are such plans in the pipeline, when do we see them being put in action?

As a kid, I used to enjoy the ride to a relative’s then new flat, which was on the way to the airport. The VIP road which leads to the airport, used to be lined on both sides with big, lush green trees that smelt fresh during rains and looked cheerful with bright red, orange, yellow flowers weighing down on their branches. Only a handful of trees that have survived the axe can now be seen and everyday a new tree is reduced to a sad, ugly stump.

While I believe that we have abused our environment shamefully, I have always taken all doomsday prophets and their prophecies with a pinch of salt. Yet, when the sight of dead trees, lying pathetically on the road side, meets my eyes, the guilt of destroying the beautiful becomes a little heavier each time.

And each time, Captain Planet becomes more of a need, than a figment of a cartoon channel’s imagination. Or else, the grand, wise trees, Ent, from Tolkien's Middle Earth, could come to life and bring us to our senses.

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