|Trees in Shogun's garden, Kyoto|
Look at these Japanese and see how concerned they are about trees. The officials of JICA (the Japanese International Cooperation Agency) who are going to be in Bhopal in regard to the local Metro project have enquired whether there are any trees standing on its proposed route. They have probably heard about the opposition to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s proposal to chop the trees that are standing in the area on which a smart city is proposed to be built. Hence the query.
Japanese take great care of their trees – whether in parks or on roadsides or anywhere. I recall having seen during a fortnight’s stay in Tokyo long back in 1982 how they would carefully ensure that the roadside trees branched off from a pre-determined height. They would wrap the tree from its bottom up to the desired height with heavy-duty ropes to ensure branching off from a pre-determined height. So if one stood on the pavement and looked down the street one would find all the roadside trees not only branching off from the same height, they also ar more or less of the same height. Careful pruning from the top ensures that. The ropes are removed once the trees grow to their full height. Japanese aesthetics after all is well known.
In their gardens also they are very particular about placement of beds, ponds, fountains and trees. These are constantly nurtured by care-givers. They have gardens for various purposes, such as, for meditation, for strolling or for conducting tea ceremonies. They have, therefore, converted gardening into an art wherein landscaping is an integral part. I have had the good fortune to go around the garden in Shogun’s palace in Kyoto and have had occasion to see how meticulously they maintain gardens. Trees and gardens, quite obviously, are considered natural capital by them and hence they take great care of them
We, on the other hand, don’t care much for trees, gardens or parks, especially those that are supposed to be taken care of by public agencies. We are an ‘axe-happy’ lot and we do not think twice before hacking down a tree even if it is full-grown fruit or flower bearing one. I am sure the Japanese who are visiting Bhopal would collapse in a fit if they happen to see some of our vacant spaces with some shrubbery around which we call public parks.
If they hear that we don’t think much of chopping down as many as 4000 trees to build an utopian smart city, perhaps, they would jump into the Upper Lake. Nowhere this kind of apathy for nature is witnessed as in this country. I recall having seen hundreds of trees felled and lying by the side of the highway from Nagpur to Jabalpur. The highway is getting two more lanes one each on either side but I did not see any pressure of traffic needing four-laning of the highway sacrificing hundreds of tall well-built precious CP teak trees. But that is our way and we perhaps can never change. It is all for the sake of “vikas” but no one knows whose “vikas” – certainly not of the people at large. Yet, it is surely for contractors, sundry officials and politicians.
The query of the visiting Japanese needs to be taken seriously by the BMC commissioner and Collector. It should lead them and others involved in the smart city project to appreciate that felling so many trees for a civil construction which possibly could be done elsewhere without harming the environment will be an abominable act and certainly will not win laurels for them.