Medical care for trees

(Photo Credit: NDMC)

(Photo Credit: NDMC)

Ever since I set out for this city, from a quaint, tranquil town in Uttar Pradesh, some 30 years ago, and made Delhi my home and karm bhoomi, I have never for a day ceased to be surprised by its versatile nature. Delhi is a city where the good, the bad, the ugly and the historical have all conspired to establish its unique credentials. It is a city that both amazes and alarms, charms and challenges, testing one’s patience and resolve every moment of the day and, once in a while, rewarding one for their resilience. One loves this city and, equally, one agonises over its boorish, ‘I, me, myself’ culture, its insensitivity towards everything, its congested roads, its polluted air, its crime, its… the list is unending!

But I digress. This modest attempt is not to run down the city I call ‘home’, but to bring into focus some little-known aspects that are both pleasant and refreshing. On my way to work recently, I was met by a most unusual and heart warming sight – a Tree Ambulance!

In a city notorious for its toxic air and fast decreasing green cover, a tree ambulance naturally evoked my curiosity, especially since not many know of its existence or its utility. A little research and some determined prodding of New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) officials, yielded information that is worth every Dilliwallah’s while.

Though few have seen it, but the tree ambulance, launched with great fanfare in 2010 by the NDMC, has been going about its business quietly and unobtrusively. Not unlike a regular ambulance with its medical accoutrements, except for the green cross and the message ‘Save Trees, Save Earth’ emblazoned on its sides, the ambulance was launched to attend to ailing trees in the city, prune, preserve, nurture them and help them stand tall.

As I learned, a tree in ‘critical condition’ is accorded the same ‘medical treatment’ as an ailing person. So, the tree ambulance is suitably equipped with a well maintained first aid kit, medicines and instruments that include a tree pruner, chain saw, a 5.5 litre water tank, water pumps and similar gadgets, essential for the maintenance of the city’s shrubs.

“We cater to lakhs of trees in the city and we always have to ensure that the ambulance and the kit are well maintained. Quite often trees fall sick and their quality starts deteriorating. To tackle these problems we keep necessary medicines that strengthen the trees and helps restore their lost qualities,” informs JP Sharma, director, Horticulture Department, NDMC.

If the lush glory in areas like Akbar Road, Aurangzeb Road and Shahjahan Road is anything to go by, then the civic agency seems to be fulfilling its responsibility rather commendably. Unfortunately, this laudable initiative is restricted to only the national capital and very few people actually know about it. Apparently, there is a help­line number: 011-41501354 and an email address: director.horticulture@ndmcmail.gov.in, where citizens can send a message if a tree in their neighbourhood has fallen or been uprooted in a storm, is causing obstruction or is generally ailing.

Another important contribution of the tree ambulance is the planting of trees across the city. These range from flowering trees, that add colour to the environment and are mostly planted in winters, to the old regulars, like the Neem and Peepal trees. However, the main challenge for the city is during the monsoons, when thunderstorms and heavy rains wreak havoc. Trees falling on traffic signals and  roads are a big problem and need to be cleared immediately. And it is here that the tree ambulance fulfils its role, as “expeditiously as possible,” claims Sharma.

So, what happens to the trees that are uprooted or are unable to respond to treatment? The NDMC reportedly holds public auctions for these trees and the revenue generated helps in meeting the requirements of the tree ambulance. Though it’s only one of its kind, in the horticulture department’s pool, the green ambulance is rendering yeoman service. Trees, the flora and fauna and a clean green environment are crucial to our well being. While one can justifiably take pride in the fact that Delhi supports such a laudable green initiative, it is equally important to bear in mind that a healthy planet is everyone’s responsibility.

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