The title of this blog is pretty straightforward, and we’re pretty sure you’ll agree with us when we say trees are beneficial. A greener environment means reduced pollution, reduced heat in public spaces, less soil erosion, and fostering a sense of better physical and mental health. A quick escape to your closest hill station or wildlife sanctuary make for a great rendezvous with nature where you’ll reap all these benefits of greenery. But in today’s fast-growing industrial world, what we need to be focusing on is incorporating more green spaces in urban areas. With more proactive city planning and enthusiastic community involvement, Chennai has great potential in becoming greener.
When we’re discussing urban green spaces, the city’s holistic planning needs to be taken into consideration. We have been conducting a tree census for quite some time in various zones of Chennai. While we have found certain developed areas, such as the Madras University staff quarters, or the Manali satellite city, to be far greener, the more rural, underdeveloped areas, such as Karapakkam and Pallavakkam, are compromised. Vast barren spaces, that provide ample space to plant trees, remain untouched. The damage from poor planning and lack of maintenance is also evident through the vast amount of trees collapses after the 2016 cyclones.
The damage is yet to be stopped. Due to incorporating more drainage systems, a common problem that avenue trees face in Chennai is root pruning. Pruning the roots of trees lead to unstable tree-tops, making them more vulnerable to damage. Ongoing discussions to send all power cables underground would need to seriously take the environment into consideration. New infrastructure should not interfere with damage to the Earth, in the long term.
Dense and compact canopies provide to be the most idealistic choices for trees in a city like Chennai, but greater selectivity of species increases time and effort. So what we feel is a faster and more efficient method is by planting more shrubs and palms to increase the green cover of Chennai. The Palmyra Palm and the Wild Date Palm make for suitable and fairly aesthetic choices. Various species of bamboo also have stable roots. Other shrubs, such as the Viraali, Seetha Pazham, or the Custard Apple are just as beneficial in providing plenty of oxygen, moderating the temperatures, improving the groundwater recharge, and providing a healthy habitat for birds and species.
There has been community effort by educational institutions and companies already to restore greenery in Chennai, especially after the cyclone of 2016. However, community involvement should be consistent with strong guidance and support. Community service programs can be implemented making it mandatory for students to perform tree planting in their local areas at least once a month. Students can be provided with small incentives to keep the engagement active. There can be exhibitions and festivals across the city targeted at the public, concerning environmental issues. Representatives from NGOs and CSR teams of companies can provide interactive workshops and presentations to educate the community about environmental issues and what can be done further to help.
Restoring the green cover of Chennai is going to benefit us all in the long run so let’s start now before it’s too late.
Words and photos by: Arushi Dutt