You must have read/heard news regarding huge trees falling in small storms or slight rains or winds. A recent one was about a tree on K G Marg, New Delhi, that fell down damaging the car parked under it in the process. Luckily, the driver had just moved out of the car, he would have got killed otherwise, for it was a huge tree.
Every year hundreds of trees fall in this manner, all over the country. Have you ever thought why this happens?
Well, this is because in the name of ‘protecting’ the tree and increasing the urban beauty a massive concretization drive is undertaken, repeatedly, with alarming regularity. A huge amount of money that could be made out of such an exercise must be the only underlying motive. For, concretising does no good to the tree, offers no support to it and visually looks ugly, to say the least.
So, why do authorities concretise the space around the base of trees, one wonders. This is the space that should be left untouched for the roots to grow horizontally (they do spread horizontally underneath the earth, you see).
Covering the area around the tree trunk in cement and concrete leaves no breathing space for roots. Both their superficial and deep roots get impacted. As there is no scope of water percolation or deep root aeration, the trees are subjected to slow death. Over a period of time as roots weaken, so do the trees which then fall even with a little provocation, like a slight storm or even when the wind blows hard.
In fact, concretization damages both, the superficial roots and the extremely-fertile top layer of the soil. If during the summer months, the cement layer heats up and dries the roots, during rainy season water gets stagnated in the cracks of the tiles rotting the tree.
I spoke to a couple of horticulturists and each one of them told me that as per the norms, an area of 36 sq feet (six feet on each said) should be left open around the tree so that roots can get enough air and water. But you look around the pavements and roadsides, nowhere is this norm followed.
In fact, most pavements in most cities have been heavily concretised. Apart from killing trees, such cementing prevents water from percolating down during rainy season. Hence you see the flooded roads, overflowing drains and depleting groundwater levels.
Clean pavements are needed for pedestrians, no doubt. But why should these be cemented? Why can’t we have green grassy pavements that are not only soothing to the eyes, help in water conservation and also let the trees live long.
I feel pavements should be raised and kept green with grass beds, shrubs and trees. Grass needs little maintenance and money. What’s more it also prevents dust pollution because it binds the soil.