It was World Earth Day yesterday and all people ranging from radio jokeis to politicians were crying for planting more trees in Kerala. I have planted lot of trees in this world. My home is surrounded with so many trees that the place can be safely described as amini private forest. My father and I have planted lot of aanjili, mahogany and aariveep trees alone the roadsides of Aluva-Munnar Road. From my experience as a person who has planted many trees, there are several small small hurdles, in the character of malayalees and laws implemented here, which need to be corrected, if we are actually serious about increasing the tree cover. They are enumerated hereunder for identifying the huddles in turning Kerala Green.
- Roadside Advertisers and Billboards: These people are the single biggest enemy of trees in Kerala. They like to have a clear view for their advertisements and to ensure that, they would cut down all trees and plants in the vicinity. Why aren’t they banned or regulated yet?
- Municipality Sweepers: Municipality sweepers like to keep their workload small. Whenever they see one newly planted sapling, they would ensure that all the waste swept from the city is collected at bottom of that plant, and would set it afire, so that plant does not generate any new waste in future, for them to sweep.
- Electricity Linemen: KSEB has a team of people with sickles attached to long rods to cut trees. Although they are supposed to prune the branches alone, to avoid touching with the electricity lines, they often cut the head of the tree itself, dwarfing the tree and impairing its growth.
- Dangerous Trees and abuse of S.133CrPC: The law says that if a tree is danger to man or his property, or if it is a nuisance to his neighbour, it shall be cut down. Section 133 CrPC is invoked by the RDO to cut down such trees. According to me, this provision is much due for repeal or reading down. It has outlived its purpose, and is in fact a burden upon this generation, which is striving to increase tree cover.
How can the RDO determine whether a tree is good, bad or decaying, when he is no expert of trees? Why should a tree be cut down just because a dimwitted neighbour thinks that it is a nuisance? Although Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2005, permit persons to freely plant trees in his land and ‘appropriately and generally’ contribute to the increasing tree cover, no RDO or Court ever permits a person to retain the branches of his tree hanging onto neighbour’s property. This according to me is a downside in the existing law, or its interpretation, in promoting tree cover.
- Beautifying the cities with concrete: In Perumbavoor, my home town, there used to be mud and soil in between footpath and edge of the road. Now it is concreted to beautify the city. The idea is great, but it is implemented in the most ugly and unscientific manner.Once the mother earth is covered up in concrete, there is no place for trees to grow, or water to percolate. After this gap was filled with concrete, Perumbavoor witnessed its first flood during last year’s rain. Some beautification it was. Better to retain the mother earth as it is.
- No incentive for having trees: The building rules prevalent in the state give no concession for having trees; or penalty for not having trees in a property. This is a serious lacuna in the existing building rules of the State, which has provisions for sundry measures like rainwater harvesting and biogas plant. An owner of a property should be given due credit for growing trees, while constructing a building. Absence of such a credit has created a social norm and prudence of not having trees in commercially important properties.
- Penalty for not having a tree in a piece of land: I have seen many lands, with sufficient space for planting trees, but without any tree. Most malayaees like to have tiled open spaces rather than tree-shaded open spaces. This is to avoid the pain of sweeping the grounds daily. The government should overcome this lethargy of malayalees by imposing proper penalties. At lease one tree in a plot of land should be made the state policy in taxing statues.
- Conservation of Paddyland and Wetland Act, 2008: I not a fan of this statue, although it is promulgated on the pretext of preserving environment. According to me, this law has has been single handedly responsible for changing the climate of Kerala. It has been highly counter productive so far, and it has resulted in drastic reduction of paddy fields in Kerala. Everyone now wants to convert their paddyland, as it is made into a burden with lot of disabilities attached. This is not the correct way to preserve paddylands. The government should at least let paddy field owners cultivate other crops and trees (like rubber) to retain the minimum greenery the state has.
Today it is 36 degree Celsius in Kochi. We are witnessing unprecedented summer heat. If we don’t act now and increase the tree cover in Kerala, soon the place would be a desert, populated with hotair inflated egoistic persons.