Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is something moving?

The morning papers reported that the Metro had "after protests that the practice of cutting trees disturbs the ecological balance,has adopted a new policy to plant one tree in the vicinity of every tree that has to be cut for construction of the Metro. This is in addition to planting 10 trees in different locaions for each tree that is cut."

If that is true, then maybe something may shift. But on the ground, the cutting went on! (pics: Priti Mahesh and Pragya Mazumdar)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On Killing A Tree

Gieve Patel

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it.
It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out if it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leprous hide
Sprouting leaves.
So hack and chop
But this alone won't do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.
The root is to be pulled out
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out-snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.
Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

appeals all around: silence abounds

A petition to the chief minister has been signed by over a thousand people, many of which are well known. The media has carried stories about the problem. The designers of the HCBS have been met and they have promised to help revise the plans. Citizens have done actions on the ground. (pic by Jaya Iyer above). Only nothing has changed. As if the driver in the bulldozer is so high up and so deafened by his own machine that nothing can stop him. It is a sign of the times. Projects carry the way. There is too much money involved. Too many intertwined interests. The scale of change is direclty proportional to the scale of capital. Humans are mere tools in its hands it seems, both who have the capital or those who only suffer from not having it. Unfree, bound.
Date:26/03/2007 URL:

Front Page
Spare the trees, plead Delhi's leading lights

Staff Reporter
NEW DELHI: Former Prime Minister V. P. Singh, writer and columnist Kushwant Singh and journalist Pranoy Roy have pitched in along with environmentalists and concerned citizens of the Capital to appeal to the Delhi Government to spare the green cover currently under threat from the High Capacity Bus Service corridor and widening of roads for more lanes.Top academics, experts, journalists, activists and students have signed an appeal to be submitted to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit asking her to stop and review the onslaught on thousands of trees lining the Capital's roads.

The ongoing petition has been initiated by Trees for Delhi, a coalition of non-government organisations and citizens of Delhi, expressing anguish over this move.

The petition urges a review of the entire plan, while emphasising that merely broadening road and felling trees to claim space for more vehicles cannot resolve the issue of traffic congestion.

"The entire process of planning for the project had been carried out without engaging in any public consultation and the petition poses several procedural issues, besides casting doubt on the very wisdom of our transport planners,'' said Ravi Agarwal, member of Trees for Delhi, at a press conference here over the weekend along with representatives from other non-governmental organisations World Wide Fund-India, Kalpavriksha, Toxics Link and Youthreach.

The petition notes that in recent months thousands of healthy trees have been cut or dug out in the name of traffic decongestion and projects including Delhi Metro and the High Capacity Bus Service corridor. "But this is not just another story of urbanisation in conflict with the environment. It is also the story of the loss of voice that people feel especially of those who have called this city their home for generations. About 30,000 trees have been cut for Metro Phase-I, National Highway Project, High Capacity Bus Service corridor, flyovers, underpasses, subways, and general road widening and we have to ask the Government to re-look its policies,'' added Mr. Agarwal.

Said Ajay Mahajan from Kalpavriksha: "Citizens and non-government organisations should be consulted before making crucial decisions and if trees continue to disappear at this rate then more than half a lakh trees will be lost before the beginning of the Commonwealth Games. Also, efforts should be made to integrate existing trees with the development plans and ensure that there is space for future plantations.''

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

Displacing the poor

The HCBS has displaced over 50 gypsy blacksmiths from their pavement abode for over 25 years. "What have we done? We do not beg or steal, only make things which people buy and like. Where should we go?" Currently they are hugging the only piece of land they can call 'home' on planet earth. Transport for the poor, or just "transport corridors?" Everthing in the way goes. Trees or people!

(pics Dorothea Rickear)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Continuing saga!

Here comes the PR!

Dear all,

The PR of the Transport Department has swung into action as is evident from the news item below and the paid advertisement in the Hindustan Times. However this is totally inadequate even as today some trees were chopped off, with no attempt to save any. Even as we watch trees are going, but since everything is numbered, which is to be saved?! The Conservator of Forests clearly told me that he has no plan for saving any tree or that any plan has ever been discussed with him. The PR says that permisison was obtianed under the tree act - as if it is God. Can permission be ever denied?!!

So will it be fait accompli soon? What else can it be?

I know some people did a great event on Sunday and there is a sign on statement to be sent out soon. But this surely is not enough. Is this all we can do? We really need to step out and show that we care for the trees. I look for the volunteers of the 'action' team for this. What is our plan friends? Is this the limit to our trying. Also some of us were to contact the RWAs!

We need to do something now! Or watch them go while we think and talk.



Bus Corridor makes a green turn
The Transport Department has reviewed the project to save trees

Date: 12/03/2007
Source: Hindustan Times

Moved by criticism that the construction of the first High Capacity Bus System (HCBS) corridor in the Capital will entail felling of about 4,000 trees, the state Transport Department has reviewed the project to ensure that less than 1,500 tree will have to be cut.

As many as 3,928 trees were earlier proposed to be cut over the entire length of the 14.5 km long corridor from Ambedkar Nagar in south Delhi to Delhi Gate near the Walled City Following the review, however, the figure has been brought down to 1,376, with 806 trees planned to be replanted, according to department sources.

During the construction of the corridor, more than 60 trees were saved by making suitable adjustments. More trees could be saved in the future in this manner, officials said. They added that additional trees would also be planted on the corridor once it was complete. Besides, a compensatory afforestation will also be taken up in which 17,790 trees-more than 10 times the trees proposed to be cut down-will be planted.

The permission for felling trees and replantation had been obtained under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act 1994, the sources said. Land for afforestation had been identified and transferred to the Forest Department, which had also been given the necessary funds for compensatory afforestation, they added. The need for cutting down trees arose to provide for an exclusive bus lane, proper bus stops, a cycle track and a pedestrian path within the existing right of way in the corridor.

In November 2005, the Supreme Court had directed the Delhi government to implement the HCBS within a fixed time frame. The Environmental Pollution Control Authority was asked to monitor the implementation of the project. The need for HCBS, among other modern modes of public transport, arose because the public-transport system in the national capital was found to be inadequate, leading to phenomenal growth of private vehicles.

And with an increasing number of people using personalised modes of transport, pollution, fuel wastage and accidents are increasing. 3,928 trees originally projected to be felled 1, 3 7 6 trees proposed to be cut after the review 806 trees to be replanted 17,790 trees to be planted as compensatory afforestation.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Trees for Delhi

Dear all,

Yesterday over 50 people met at our office. Amongst them were most of Delhi's environmental NGOs and many involved citizens. They came to form "Trees for Delhi," and to start a campaign on the assault on trees in the city, mostly for road widening work and transport corridors. How do we balance transport and the issue of trees? Why is the city not informed, are the trees not of citizens? Why are people asked to participate in tree planting drives, when these can be " cut at will?" Delhi without trees - what is it?

If we do not focus on the tree again, and let all discourse flow from that point, there is no debate. The tree has to be important. Symbolically as well as a living entity. There is lot to be done, and I hope we are upto the task collectively and individually.

Ofcourse mass transport which is cheap and efficient is very important. Anyone who has taken a ride in Delhi's buses in the morning will know that. But does that mean that we have do do nothing about traffic management? Cars will increase and ply like usual, where the trees once were? If the city need to improve let it pay the cost for it, but not at the expense of cutting down its trees. Should we not be also talking about "car management?"

Let this not be a battle between trees and mass transport, but about equity and fairness as well, about rationality and sustainability, where the tree too has a right to be.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

last holi for this one?

Dear all,

Spare a thought for this glorious tree, on holi. it is marked for felling soon for the high capacity bus service, on the road dividing kaka nagar and sunder nagar! As I have been saying, for a few days now, everything is to go on a 14 km stretch, 2500 prime beautiful trees!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

everything is to go!

Dear all,
this follows my barrage of mails over the past days. I can only photograph so many trees! Every single tree you see in the pictures below are marked for felling. No exception. These pictures from today morning are on the road between Kaka nagar and Sunder Nagar (near zoo), not only on both sides but also the centre of the road.And as I said yesterday this is over 14 kms for a high capacity bus service!!! The felling is from Madangir to Moolchand to Delhi Gate I have been told - the whole length.

A friend spoke to a senior govt person in delhi yesterday. He said 'we cannot stop progress.'

So either rise and shine now dear friends or then like the romans 'have an orgy' of progress. Please spread the word. If we can save anything, anything it will take some effort. Else they are all gone --over 2500 prime trees -

Marked for Felling

Friday, March 2, 2007

Butchering Trees and Pavements

Dear all,

As I spend another morning today trying to gather evidence of the trees , over 2500, marked for felling, I find I cannot shoot for more than some minutes. To see fully grown trees, of all shades and varieties, the type you cannot find in Delhi any more, some over 50 years old marked for felling in yellow ink and numbers etched onto the tree trunks, is more than I can accept. Behind the construction boards of the HSBS ( High Capacity Bus Service) lies a trail of disaster. Uprooted giants of trees, some axed, some bleeding at the roots, mercilessly felled.

I know of no other city where 8 land higways criss cross it. ( From exisiting 6 lane this will now become 8 lane with the new service). Cleave it through and hack all that in its way. And a citenzery whcih is so quiet that it took a week to even get the media to do a story on it, and that also only via a concerned reporter. There is such silence and such uncertainty. The isolation which can be afforded through the window panes of cars, where we sit an decide if we can afford to raise our voicesor maybe this will go away and no one will know. Like it never hapenned.

My friend the photo printer told me "dil dehal jaata hai jab mei us sarak per jaato hoon. Kitne bade and sunder per, aise hi kaat denge.?" My heart stops when I go on that road, will such big and majestic trees just be cut? Another friend who lives in Saket, refuses to look out of the taxi window, since it upsets her so much. Like it does me.

Whose consensus was sought. When this project was approved. Who made the decision that the road is needed. Who saw the traffic studies? Who justified it. Who executed it? How is the consensus made? How are such decisions taken?

In the last post I wrote about my inability to act. I wonder if it is the larger inability to act. How we seem to have said 'yes' without saying anything. How we maybe are caught up in our not wanting to neogotiate our little gains or how we justify them to ourselves (the city needs better transport! - read as "I like my car!"). There is not point thinking and pontificating if we are not prepared to participate in what is going on. The city has been changing as I write. By April end, the city would have lost over 3000 of its most glorious and old trees. Then we can get to work on time. I suppose - to a better future!

ravi agarwal

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Scale and Dislocations

Dear all,

Today as I drove past the Chirag Delhi flyover, I saw that the roadside basti of nomads was no more. Nor was their pavement market of metal forged objects or their carts where they lived. Instead there was a familiar sheet barricaded line of HCBC, or High Capacity Bus Service, the new delively vehicle for our city. As I saw from my car at the red light a fight broke out amongst the dwellers, amongst their wares scaterred on the road. Stick were drawn and knives came out as people struggled to break the scuffle. Who knows what tensions must be brewing amongst people with no home anymore. The light changed, without my noticing, till the blaring horns made me drive on, whizz past what I had become used to whizzing past these past months.

Earlier for days I had been watching in horror the tree lined avenues being cleaned of decade old trees. Transport corridors have taken over, as the commonwealth games become the defacto justification for all projects. The Conservator of Forests told me that for the metro alone over 35,000 trees had been cut. Another 2500 will go for the High Capacity Bus Service, and and over 20,000 for other road widning projects. Some trees evena hundred years old with girths of over 7 to 10 ft. All axed! As I sit on the Ridge Management Board, for the past three weeks we have had to deal with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) the holy cow of the city and its pride. They want to go through the protected Ridge Forest for 2.5 km , cut several hundred trees, to connect Delhi to neighbouring Gurgaon. Simeltaneouly an 8 lane high way is being proposed joining Delhi to Gurgaon. Going underground will cost 500 crores more they argue. I say to them that that is merely the cost of two plots of land in lutyen;s Delhi, who is to decide what is more important - a 2 billion year old Ridge or an ugly overground metro. The heritage guys had more clout - they pushed it away from Qutub Minar onto the Ridge. Well at least the build heritage has politcal agency. Alongside the old, tree and bird rich Sunder Nursery is slated to be sacrificed to an underground transport corridor. Who is to say what is needed or not. All process is lost and all rationality based on balance is not important it seems. However, the scale of this change leaves me still, unable to move.

Which way should I react as an environmentalist. For over a decade I knew. Now I know not. When you are in the midst of a tsunami, what do you do? It is something they did not teach me. How to deal with scale? It is no longer a sum of small things. Small actions do not seem to matter. My human time cannot adapt to the implosion. Has the idea of something become so large now that I as an individual do not matter? Is there any single perputator any more? Or are we just caught in a moment much larger than ourselves?