Trees offer multiple benefits — don’t kill them, breed them


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Value estimate of a tree

Mains level: Importance of trees among various spheres


Defying the NCBC move

  1. Officials in Delhi wish to fell about 17,000 fully grown trees in some parts of the city to make space for building housing colonies.
  2. And to “pacify” people who object to this tree destruction, they say that for every tree that will be felled, they will plant 10 saplings.
  3. It means what we lose up today will be compensated after 20 years when the sapling is full-grown into a tree.
  4. Government and city planners in several other states do the same. This attitude shows not just ignorance but arrogance, disregard for trees and their value.
  5. It is time planners wake up and understand the value — economic, ecological, health-related and sociological — that trees offer.

Value of a Tree            

Have a look at the following estimates:

  • T.M. Das of Kolkata University in 1979
  1. He estimated that the monetary value of a tree, for a lifespan of 50 years, amounted to about $2,00,000 (at 1979 rates).
  2. This was based on the amount of oxygen it produces, the fruit or the biomass and the timber it offers when felled and so on.
  3. For every 1 gram that a tree accumulates as it grows, it generates about 2.66 grams of oxygen.
  • Dr Nancy Beckham of Australia
  1. She points out that trees and plants silently carry out their daily routine years after years, stabilizing the soil, recycling nutrients, cooling the air, modifying wind turbulence, intercepting the rain, absorbing toxins, reducing fuel costs, neutralizing sewage.
  2. It also helps by increasing property values, promoting tourism, encouraging recreation, reducing stress and improving personal health as well as providing food, medicine and accommodation for other living things.
  • Department of Environmental Conservation of New York, USA
  1. It points out that healthy trees mean healthy people: 100 trees remove 53 tons of CO2 and 430 pounds of other air pollutants per year;
  2. healthy trees mean healthy communities: tree-filled neighbourhoods lower the levels of domestic violence and are safer and move sociable;
  3. Healthy trees mean a healthy environment — 100 mature trees catch about 1,40,000 gallons of rainwater per year;
  4. Healthy trees mean home-owner savings — strategically placed trees save up to 56% of air conditioning costs; evergreens that block winter winds can save 3% on heating;
  5. Healthy trees mean better business — in tree-lined commercial districts, shoppers report more frequent shopping and spend 12% more for goods, and
  6. Healthy trees mean higher property values.
  • Delhi Greens, an NGO, estimated in 2013 that a healthy tree is worth Rs. 24 lakh a year, just with respect to its oxygen producing capacity.

Popular Examples in India

In stark contrast to the cruel attitude towards trees stand the examples of-

  • Sunderlal Bahuguna’s “chipko” movement,
  • Saalumarada Thimmakka of Karnataka who has planted 398 banyan trees — each representing her own child, and
  • 700 years old “pillalamarri” banyan tree spanning a 4–acre canopy , near Mahabubnagar, Telangana being treated by Majid Khan and the team of biologists and horticulturists with intensive care, which is being eaten up by termites.
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