Delhi high court orders all civic bodies to operate tree ambulances

Delhi: 16 March, 2022 (Hindustan Times)

The Delhi high court first gave the directions to South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) on February 14 this year, and later extended the directions to include the other agencies in an order on March 2.

 

The tree ambulance treats trees with termite infestations, diseases, lopping or concretisation.

 

 

The Delhi high court has asked the three municipal corporations of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Cantonment Board and land-owning agencies like the public works department (PWD), Central PWD and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to set up a tree diseases surgery unit, procure tree ambulances and hire a specialised arborist in each body before April 14 this year to ensure the safety of trees in the Capital.

Hearing a plea on deconcretising trees, the high court first gave the directions to South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) on February 14 this year, and later extended the directions to include the other agencies in an order on March 2.

The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) already has a tree ambulance and tree surgery unit. The tree ambulance treats trees with termite infestations, diseases, lopping or concretisation, and has been operational for over a decade now. The customized vehicle carries pesticides, fungicides and insecticides, and is also equipped with a pipe and a ladder to climb trees or water it. The SDMC has already taken steps to fulfill the court’s directions.

The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) already has a tree ambulance and tree surgery unit.

“The direction of the court dated February 14, 2022, directing SDMC for operationalising a tree disease surgery unit has been promptly complied with by the SDMC under a strict administrative timeline fixed by the commissioner of the corporation. It would be in the fitness of things, if all other civic bodies...in the city would give effect to this court’s order dated February 14, 2022, with the same promptitude as shown by the SDMC,” said the court’s directions on March 3, 2022. The directions were issued as part of an ongoing petitioned filed to deconcretise around 5,000 trees in Vasant Vihar.

While the Greening Guidelines, 2000, mandate corporations and other land-owning agencies to have a tree diseases surgery unit alongside a tree ambulance, its implementation has been found lacking over the last two decades. A 2007 Delhi high court order too asked the three corporations to set up tree disease units but the corporations failed to act on the order.

A senior east MCD official said they were converting two existing hydraulic tree pruners into tree ambulances, the first of which is likely to become operational on Monday. “These tree pruners were being used for pruning purposes, but they will be retrofitted and equipped to act as a tree ambulance as it will allow access to trees at a great height. A four-member team has also been created and we will soon launch a helpline number,” the official said.

The North MCD said it was in the process of procuring a tree ambulance but said it has not received funds. “Until then, we will take a one-week training from NDMC since they already have a tree ambulance in place and have the technical knowledge to carry out tree surgeries. We will formally communicate with them to begin the process,” the official said.

Bhavreen Kandhari, an environmental activist who had written a letter to the SDMC last year to operationalise a tree disease surgery unit, said the three corporations did not have an arborist or the equipment required to protect or save trees which get tilted during a storm. “Hundreds and thousands of trees which could be saved are not being saved. This is why having such a unit and a tree ambulance is important,” she said.

A DDA official, asking not to be named, said they have not begun the process for procuring a tree ambulance.

PWD officials did not respond to requests seeking comment.