All ancient cultures revered trees I feel the same reverence for the trees and plants from the holy Tulsi to the giant Redwoods, but what are we doing to protect nature, which in turn protects us. Whats the Tree authority doing?
AMONG THE many wonders in our country, one gem is called the Tree Authority. We ordinary folks may be forgiven, if we presume that the onerous duty of this august body is to protect trees and increase the tree cover of the state for which they are responsible. On the contrary, newspaper reports suggest that they are more in the business
of giving permissions for felling trees, or looking the other way, when contractors or their own bosses, the municipalities hack trees with gusto – generally in the name of ‘development’. On paper, cutting even a single tree is a grave offence. Even if the tree was planted by you, in your own compound!
While the nitty-gritty may vary from place to place, this is a non-bailable offence, leading to a fine of Rs. 5000.00 per tree and/or jail up to one year. If for some valid reason a tree has to be cut, written permission from Tree Authority is required, along with a deposit of Rs. 5000.00 per tree. The same tree or its replacement has to be replanted elsewhere and nurtured. Once the tree has taken root, the money is refunded. In practice this never happens and with or without the blessings of the authority, our neighbourhoods are being deprived of the life-nurturing gift of trees.
When the state or the municipalities have to hack trees for public projects, they do so with a slyness, which can only be envied. Either they are felled at the dead of night, thus leaving no trace of who the culprit was or by nailing the mandatory public notice (inviting objections) so high on the tree, that even the most ardent tree watcher will have no clue, that these trees are doomed. Only a monkey might be able to read the notice, at that location. This is no exaggeration, as a campaign in our locality is going on just against this cynical behaviour of the authorities.
Now the question is, why all this fuss about mere trees? Sometime back, I put this poser to a class of business management students: Which statement is true – ‘Man cannot exist without plants and trees’ or ‘Plants and trees cannot exist without Man’. I gave them 24 hours to study, discuss or look up sources and then give me the answer. Next day, to my shock they all uniformly replied that ‘Man can exist without plants and trees, but plants cannot exist without Man’! Possibly they were only thinking of manmade gardens and the like.
They were then informed that the plant kingdom and animal kingdom arrived and flourished on the surface of earth ages before mankind arrived on the scene. From early man to today’s femme fatale walking down the ramp, they have all survived thanks to the nourishment and fresh air the plant kingdom provides us. Not to mention shade, checking soil erosion, raising water table, hosting chirping birds, converting carbon dioxide (a green house gas) into sugar and giving out fresh air for us to breath. Providing timber and fuels. The list of blessings is endless. Just after India’s independence, the visionary writer and founder of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Dr KM Munshi launched the ‘Vanmahotsava’, for planting trees around Delhi
in July every year, for halting the march of the desert. At that time he was lampooned and called ‘paudha mantri’, instead of Union Minister of Agriculture, that he was. Much later, Sunderlal Bahuguna started the ‘Chipko’ movement, where the locals would just hug the trees tightly, and prevent the timber mafia from felling them. But the mayhem goes on.
In more recent times, thousands of trees along the highways have been allowed to be cut illegally, to make way for commercial hoardings, all protests notwithstanding. This spate of unconscionable mass felling of trees along the roads is reminiscent of the shenanigans of the billboard fraternity in the United States in the early 30s. This drove the humourist, Ogden Nash to pen in 1933 a parody, ’Song of the Open Road’ thus:
“I think that I shall never see
A billboard as lovely as a tree.
Perhaps unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all. "
The parody was inspired by the best poetic tribute to trees ever made, viz. ’Trees’, by Joyce Kilmer. The opening and the closing lines of the poem are:
"I think I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree."
All ancient cultures have wisely worshipped and revered trees, for more than one reasons. From childhood we learnt to worship trees. I feel the same reverence for the trees and plants – from the holy Tulsi to the giant Redwoods. Ancient rulers in India
always donated a temple grove and a tank to every village. This provided shade and cool resting place for the fatigued pilgrim, and helped to preserve water table and helped in water harvesting, for the draught periods. Driven by Mammon or ignorance, those who wield the axe do not know what heinous crime they are committing against humanity and our planet. Trees are the very breath of life.
For good measure, Nash wrote elsewhere:
"Beneath this slab
John Brown is stowed.
He watched the ads
And not the road. "
We would do well to guard our trees, the gift of life that Nature has blessed us with. And how will our Bollywood survive, if there are no longer any trees for the mandatory song and dance number, with the hero and the heroine, running around it, with the lady in her rain-soaked diaphanous sari.