Star of Mysore editorial, March 14, 2008
Chroniclers of the distant past wrote about the rulers of our land planting trees. Contemporary historians have plenty to write about present rulers. Tree-planting will certainly not figure in their records. On the other hand, references to Bangalore and Mysore may mention about large scale uprooting of full grown roadside trees for myriad reasons. Trees, planted decades ago, have been made to pay a heavy price by civilisation. Even trees that had stood for decades on the high-ways connecting the two cities have been brought down.
Laws are in place restricting vandalism of trees in general, particularly those in public places. Maybe, there is no law against any citizen planting trees on roadsides. Some are of the view that it is inadvisable to plant trees without the concurrence of the authorities. There is the issue of encroachment of public places such as the footpath. In addition, hardly anyone is clear on how to go about tree-planting. The officials too may not know if they are authorised to issue formal permits. However, they have been permitting themselves to uproot roadside trees in thousands.
It will be a great help if the civic authorities declare the tree policy. That should contain guidelines on tree-planting on roadsides. It should also spell out the names of preferred species and those that are to be avoided for greening the environment inside and outside the cities. Even the spacing of trees between them and also between the road and the tree should be specified based on scientific factors and logic. Planting trees in our enthusiasm under high-tension wires and electric lines should be avoided. The village folk have apparently resolved all these issues without any hassles.
The State has the distinction of having been served by luminaries in the Department of Horticulture. One such personality was Dr. M.H. Mari Gowda, its first Director, who is regarded as the Father of Horticulture in Karnataka as well India. August 8, his birthday, is observed as Horticulture Day. The occasion is the best opportunity to rekindle the interest in horticulture, including Social Forestry engulfing roadside tree-planting among both officials and the public at large.
Another legendary personality who took to tree-planting as her life's mission is Saalumarada Thimmakka of Hulikal village in Bangalore district. Honoured with the National Citizen Award for the lifetime achievement to sustain environment through tree-planting, she chose to plant Banyan trees in lieu of children, being issueless. She may be chosen as the logo for the State's project on planting roadside trees.
Lastly, the different wings of the government, namely Public Works Department, Electricity Department, City Corporation, Urban Development Authority, Telecom Department and others must be restrained from resorting to uprooting of roadside trees for reasons not quite convincing but must be allowed to uproot whenever necessary, specially when these trees are hazardous to motorists and electricity lines.