We don’t want any trees in Chennai’

No one says we don't want trees, but it appears that trees have no friends left among the various civic authorities in Chennai, as they go about brutally hacking, cutting and uprooting carefully nurtured trees.

We don’t want any trees in Chennai.

No one said this, at least not to me, and certainly not out loud. I am saying this to myself. How else does one explain the heartlessness shown towards trees in this city? If one of the reasons it was called Singara Chennai, was the number of tree lined avenues we had everywhere; well, we are Singara no more.

The Kotturpuram Tree Park is a jewel, a tribute to the persistence and dedication shown by a group of tree lovers, and supported by citizens in and around Kotturpuram. The park has many rare species of native trees, and several young trees were meticulously looked after in the wake of Cyclone Vardah. We even wrote about the tree park a few years ago in CM. I have volunteered at the park several times, and marvelled at what a tranquil learning and relaxation space it was beginning to be for the entire community – young children, students, middle aged walkers and senior citizens.

At the other end of the park, deer graze and a bench awaits.. Why would anyone destroy such a paradise? (KTP)
Photo credit: Nizhal

Yesterday, many of us received heart rending visuals of trees and shrubs uprooted inside the tree park along the Adyar river. Over a 100, say Shobha Menon and T D Babu, well known tree lovers and trustees of Nizhal, the NGO that was instrumental in setting up the park 13 years ago. Some of the lost trees are as old as the park. What a wanton waste…

The reason given for the razing is to build a see-through boundary wall for the river. “During the 2015 floods, when the compound wall built by the GCC gave way, these trees stood as a bio shield. They trapped tons of plastics and other garbage and didn’t allow it into the river. It’s so illogical to clear this first line of defence to construct a see-through wall,”says Babu.

Trees uprooted at Kotturpuram Tree Park. Photo credit: Nizhal

Tree uprooted at Kotturpuram Tree Park. Photo credit: Nizhal

A full grown Dinner Plate Leaf tree, or வென் தனக்கு (Botanical name Pterospermum canescens), lies on the ground in the park. A flowering tree native to India. this one will never flower. Photo credit : Nizhal

Dont cry for me Chennai. (at Kotturpuram Tree park) Photo credit: Nizhal

It appears a PWD official has termed the incident an ‘accident’, caused by an earthmover operator.  Of course, it is the fault of the lowest person in the food chain. But why was this clearing done at night? Why not during the day, when the operator could have seen what lay in front of him? Why this secrecy? What gives government departments and contractors hired by them, the right to destroy months and years of work done by citizens? And how easily they say replantation, like it could be done using some glue or sticking tape..

Last week, given the onset of the monsoon, many areas of Chennai witnessed personnel from TNEB going around ‘trimming’ the branches of trees, that were coming in contact with wires, or likely to come in contact with wires. At least the ones in Velachery, where my parents-in-law live; they said they are from EB. They had no equipment, except a six or seven foot long bamboo pole, at the end of which was tied a large sickle. And they went around hacking trees indiscriminately, standing on the road.

Not for them the time consuming method of using the right equipment to reach up and trim the required branches.. This was so much easier – the tree would not dare to grow for another few years!!  They cut Neem trees, mango trees, rain trees, whatever dared to stand in their path. They even cut a young custard apple tree that was barely eight feet in height, as if to tell it, here, take this warning!!

The Neem tree in our neighbour’s house in Velachery, hacked beyond recognition. Photo : Meenakshi Ramesh

What’s left of the tree, dumped at the gate. Photo: Meenakshi Ramesh

The young custard apple tree. Will it dare to reach for the sky again?
Photo: Meenakshi Ramesh

My mother in law saw the men approaching their beloved neem tree, and alerted my father in law, who, God bless him, fought tooth and nail and ensured that their tree did not suffer this fate, but most other residents were not even aware. They came home or opened their doors to find their entrances filled with foliage.  Many friends and acquaintances are sharing similar experiences from all over the city.

And then there are those who want to pave their footpath or exit ramp, and if there is a tree right by their gate, God help the tree. Its trunk will be covered with cement and concrete down to the last centimetre, leaving no space for water to percolate down to the trees’s roots. Do they know that this will surely kill the tree? Maybe that is what they secretly want. or maybe they are just plain ignorant. There are rules regarding building around trees in our public spaces, but I doubt if anyone is reading them.

Is this how we look after our trees? Have we not learned a single lesson? After the floods, after Vardah? Why are we so bent on destroying our city, our home?

Everyone calls Chennai a resilient city, but we are really pushing its limits.


  1. Sriram K says:

    Very true. Not just govt. official, even real estate builders are major culprits in this. Near my home, the builders had cut 5 or 6 trees for building an apartment. They hardly leave any space in the building to plant new trees, not even a coconut tree.

    • Gopalakrishnan.A says:

      Haha near my Casa Grand group cleared 1000 neem & coconut trees for apartment construction.I don’t know why they are planning to construct the buildings in outside city. All because of the developing the same area for the years. People coming for studies here and get settled in the job. So the apartments were constantly growing around the OMR village areas.

    • Rehane says:

      Heart breaking.
      This goes on in many places.

  2. Philomin says:

    Only heartless and thoughtless people will do it.

    • Mahesh K says:

      Saddening to hear about completeley negligent and unnecessary cutting trees in the parks and neighborhoods.. how do we prevent it from happening again?

  3. Gopalakrishnan S says:

    Residents of Govardhanagiri near Avadi returned a contractor who came to construct a bus shelter in the place of a old Peepul tree. They point blank told ‘If you can construct a bus shelter after removing the tree, we don’t want your bus shelter and you just go back’!

  4. Jerin says:

    In Arumbakkam I saw 2 to 3 young trees lying dead on the ground. When I asked the nearby locals. It was caused by a truck which tried pass through a narrow road. He said the truck possibly a water tanker could barely make it through the road.

  5. Madhuriprabhakar says:

    Even pallavaram 200 feet radial road is not left with trees. Recently in the extention of road many trees are cut. Not even road is completed. It looks like drainage. Even schools are running there. When it rains parents are facing many problems.

  6. Joy says:

    If we don’t respect nature, we are forced to face nature’s revenge. Humans do not strength to face it. Because of some people, many are going to suffer.

  7. रमेश चंद बोहरा says:

    कहते है – पेट जाया बेटा बुढ़ापे में खून के आँसू रुलाता है , जबकि एक नारियल का पेड़ बुढ़ापे में अमृत जैसा नीर पिलाता है । तात्पर्य है किसी भी पेड़ को मत काटो । अणुव्रत आन्दोलन भी पर्यावरण बचाने का एक सशक्त आंदोलन सन 1949 से चल रहा है।

  8. Rob B says:

    This is ridiculous to say the least. Already the town has soot and ash in the air. And now, we are cutting down the trees that really help regulate the heat, the air, and provide shelter to the poor animals. It’s almost always due to these construction projects which are done hastily without proper planning to maximize profits. Shame on us.

  9. Sathish says:

    Hope another big disaster should come to clean those heartless fellows. God only should give them disastrous gift.

  10. Tree lover says:

    Fate of human is that we perish by our own actions..every representative of area association need to be consented before any development or destructive actions are undertaken….mindless development….heartless destruction….shame on government to continue such actions In spite of criticisms….people need to stop such activities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

City Buzz: Delhi’s water crisis, heatwave | NEET exam again for 1,563 … and more

In other news: Property prices spike in Tier-2 cities, 10 million urban houses under PMAY in 5 years and menstrual hygiene rules for schools.

Battling Delhi's water crisis amid heatwave The Delhi High Court on June 12 directed Haryana to reply to a contempt plea over its non-compliance of the court’s earlier order regarding water supply to Delhi. But the Haryana government on June 12 had told the Supreme Court that no excess water was released by Himachal Pradesh to send to Delhi. Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on June 11 formed “quick response teams” to manage main water distribution networks and prevent leakages, according to Water and Revenue Minister Atishi. Additional district magistrates (ADMs) and sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) were deployed to…

Similar Story

Councillor Talk: Menaga Shankar of Ward 197 promises access to education and government services

Menaga Shankar, Councillor of Ward 197 has a vision of improving the standards of corporation schools and bringing e-Sevai centres to her ward.

Menaga Shankar was born, brought up and married in Uthandi, now a part of Ward 197. She contested on an AIADMK ticket and was elected as a first-time councillor from the same ward. A political science student in college, she entered politics to bring good educational infrastructure to the people. She says she is particularly invested in the education of girl children. Ward 197 has upmarket localities with posh bungalows along the coast, while on the other hand, it is also home to marginalised communities who depend on fishing and farming for their livelihood. The ward’s boundaries begin in Akkarai…