A MAJORITY of healthy looking, big, green poplar trees on both sides of the canal are dead from inside and they are discharging excessive carbon dioxide into the atmosphere instead of keeping it clean.
The findings were revealed in a recent report of a committee constituted by the Lahore High Court while hearing a writ petition. The committee comprised officials of the Punjab Forest Department, the Parks and Horticulture Authority, the Punjab Forestry Research Institute and two lawyers.
The petition was filed by Saeed Nasim Cheema v/s the Punjab Forest Department and Justice Syed Asghar Haider on February 13, 2009, had directed the forest department to depute a team of experts to examine the deteriorating condition of trees on The Mall and the Link Canal, BRB. In pursuance of the court order, the department constituted a committee, which held its first meeting on March 26, 2009, and inspected the sites on March 30, 2009. Meetings were also held on March 31, 2009 and April 4, 2009.
The last meeting of the committee was held on May 21 during which the PHA director said that poplars were planted on the canal banks 30-40 years back while the natural age of the trees was 15 to 25 years.
“At present, the age of poplars is 10 to 15 years above their natural age. Their outer body is green but they are hollow from inside while most of the trees are dead,” the PHA director revealed in the report. He also recommended immediate replacement of the dead trees with new ones.
The committee also devised a comprehensive plan for tree planting along the Canal Road, BRB Canal and The Mall to be completed in next three years. It said that the planting included the Pepal, Amaltas, Gul-e-Mohar, Kachnar, Ghural, Gab, Bottle Brush, Ticoma and Mahwa trees. Ahmad Rafay Alam, one of the members of the committee, said the poplars along the canal had grown past their age. “This means that, although they are living and well, the inside trunks are beginning to grow old and decay from inside. This is natural and occurs in all trees,” he said. Mr Alam said the poplars along the canal were planted during the 1960s along with the eucalyptus. He said the PHA director informed the committee that it was thought that they were quick growing trees that would provide cover along the canal. Other trees with longer life spans were also planted. He said poplars could collapse in strong winds that’s why every monsoon or during every windstorms one or two of such tress used to fall.
The founder of the Shajar Dost Movement and a renowned landscape consultant, Col (Retd) Ejaz Nazim, strongly criticised the departments concerned regarding the issue.
He said the healthy looking trees but hollow or dead from inside were discharging extra carbon dioxide, adding that the trees should be replaced with new long-lasting trees to reduce the rising air pollution.
“The majority of trees along the city canal are badly damaged by termites and any new planting near these infected trees would result in spread of termites,” he said and added that new planting should be made after uprooting the infected and dead trees.
Mr Nazim said the departments like the PHA and Punjab Forest department were not aware of the latest techniques of urban forestry and had not conducted any topographical survey of the trees to check their health. He said the departments had no facilities to plant saplings.
“What we do is plant thousands of saplings randomly, which later destroyed due to various reasons such as extreme weather conditions, unhealthy land and malnutrition,” he said. He urged the departments concerned to modify their approach regarding planting in urban areas and develop tree planting sites where long life trees were planted and nourished before being shifted to any urban area.
Talking about the issue, a number of citizens said what had the PHA and Punjab Forest Department been doing for the last 10 years if they did not know the well-known facts about poplars. However, they appreciated the court for setting up a committee, which finally made a plan and started planting trees according to the local needs.
Source: The News