‘We need a Vriksha Bandhan’

Bharati Chaturvedi is the founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group and is a prominent voice against the culling of trees in Delhi. Excerpts from an interview:

Delhi, the world’s most polluted city, is rather keen to get rid of 16,500 trees to add more real estate.

How can the world’s most polluted city do this? Get rid of its trees, mostly very old ones? I suggest, instead of Raksha Bandhan, Delhi needs a Vriksha Bandhan.

The multiple organisations that run Delhi, instead of dealing with the crisis of their own making are indulging in a blame game. They are good at passing the buck.

The citizens of Delhi have come out on the streets. It’s a citizen’s movement. My advice to the government is to please focus on protecting the rest of our trees and don’t politicise our greens. As we don’t want to lose a single tree more. Instead, help Delhi lose its polluted air. Let’s figure out how to build with trees intact as is done all over the world.

Delhi is a mega city with mega problems. The government says it has to provide housing. Their justification is more trees will be planted.

Not just Delhi, this is a pan-India problem. By 2030, almost half the country’s population will be urban. What kind of cities will India offer us? Of course, I won’t say nothing is done. The Smart Cities Mission, creation of new cities like Amravati and upgradation of others are underway. On the ground, frankly, urbanisation is quagmired in woozy myopia. The move to cut 16,000 trees for redevelopment has been initiated when Delhi is enveloped in dust, the world’s most polluted city even in the summer.

Is there a conflict between development and environment? How does one deal with the problems of a burgeoning metropolis?

The fact of the matter is, and let’s face it, state institutions are mandated now to speed environmental clearances.

I have been stressing that the notion of the inviolate should be ushered back into governance. You simply cannot insult the environment. The Supreme Court tried imposing the inviolate in the late 1980s and ‘90s, but it was short-lived because it never became part of the ethos of state decision-making. Also, there’s a need to re-educate officials about why the environment must be nurtured.

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