Editor’s note: Citizen Matters had published an article regarding the controversy amongst residents of Prestige Shantiniketan apartment, regarding managing the trees planted on the podium in right way. This is a clarification issed by the Prestige Shantiniketan Management Committee president, in which the concerns and possible way forward has been detailed.
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The discussion on removing the trees growing on the podium had been on, within the Prestige Shantiniketan residents group, for the last year and a half. The decision if any is not going to be taken without proper due diligence.
Residents of PSN are not against green cover. However we want to have green cover without compromising on safety of the huge structure or life and limb. There is no division of opinion among the residents regarding the safety of structure and residents.
Concerns of the Management Committee
Soil depth: According to the builders’ maintenance agency, the depth of the soil varies from 18 to 33 inches, but in most areas, it is just 18 to 20 inches. This results in trees with considerable height / canopy being very unstable on account of mismatch between the anchoring strength of shallow roots and the resistance offered by the tall/ large canopy.
We had two trees fall during recent times, though not on the podium; but has caused enough doubts about whether the current soil depth is good enough to hold the trees in place as they grow bigger and larger with age. Many boards have collapsed on the podium (Tower-14, 17, 9/10). A few trees on podium are already bending (between Tower 22-23). More than a dozen trees on podium are leaning dangerously in different parts of the podium.
Seepage: We have observed seepage under many gardens. Podium drains are already damaged in some places. This gives enough suspicion that there are cracks present under the soil structure. The roots can further expand the cracks and can result into severe structural damage, which is also seconded by the experts.
Soil erosion: On account of addition of root biomass, soil level has risen. Rainwater is now taking the soil away, resulting in soil erosion.
Pruning required: As per builder, the trees need to be regularly pruned and maintained to restrict the damage based on roots. This has not been done by the builders’ maintenance agency, going by their own admission.
Dying herbs: As the trees are growing bigger, the ornamental herbs below the trees are deprived of light, water and nutrients and hence they are dying.
Risk of tree-falling: PSN has high wind velocity, which touches 50 to 60 kmph. This is because of wind tunnel effect. Because of the insufficient root depth, there is a possibility of trees collapsing. The probability increases with age and height of the tree.
Based on these, there were many discussions that have happened in public domain among the Prestige Shantiniketan residents.
Who is working on this?
The Green Initiative team working on this, has planted more than 700 trees on the premises of PSN during the last three years. PSN has large trees and rare bio-diversity comprising of fruit, flowering, ornamental, commercial and sacred trees collected from nurseries, including Forest Department. The team had also planned Panchvati garden in the campus.
This is the team which is working on removal / replanting / relocation of trees on podium. The team also has experts like Prof. K B Reddy, who is a leading expert and consultant for several major corporations and public sector undertakings. Prof. Reddy was instrumental in transforming a semi-arid Nagarjuna University Campus (Guntur) into a lush green man-made forest with over two lakh trees for which he has been given Vruksha Mitra award. He was an advisor, guide and project performance evaluator for several projects undertaken by the Forest Department. Recipient of a number of medals and awards, Prof Reddy was also the most valuable member of the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) for two terms of three years each.
Process followed by MC
On 18th January 2013, in Management Committee meeting, the builder admitted that as per plan given by architects, the trees on podium have to be pruned regularly and transplanted every three to four years after pruning the roots in order to grow them as bonsai or miniature trees. They have said coconut trees have to be relocated / transplanted and others have to be pruned and maintained carefully.
In spite of repeated requests, the builder did not give anything in writing, did not share the plans by landscaping architects, and has not done any maintenance for trees, including pruning.
We have got the official opinion from our internal expert Prof. Reddy. In order to remove any conflict of interest scenario, we also got opinion from external expert, Prof S RamaKrishna Rao, who has a Ph.D from Gitam University. He is the Chairman of Environmental Monitoring Committee in Vishakhapattanam Port Trust, former Joint Director, MoE&F, GoI, former member of State Expert Appraisal Committee, MoE&F, GoI, advisor to Vizag Port Authority and in charge of urban forestry division of Vizag.
Plan of Management Committee:
- Based on the various concerns, expert opinions, Management Committee (MC) has decided to remove the trees from podium.
- MC has also plans to make the podium more greener, beautiful and safer at the same time.
- We plan to plant three to four ornamental shrubs and climbers for every tree removed from podium.
- The removal of trees from podium does not mean cutting/chopping of trees. MC is considering all practical options like translocating of trees and pruning.
- MC also thanks residents who have given us the knowledge on Forest/Tree Authority. We will take permission of Tree Authority wherever necessary.
- MC is already working with various agencies for translocation. These agencies are doing site survey for the feasibility of translocating these trees.
The photo shown in earlier article is of pruned shrubs and not trees. Those who wish to have glimpses of what is on the podium and what are grown by the residents, check https://picasaweb.google.com/prof.kbr/PSNTrees02#
- More than 50% of Erythrina fusca have either died or about to die a natural death.
- Most of the Spathodea campanulata have become large and their roots exposed. Radical propagation and proliferation is threatening.
- Most of the Lagerstroemia speciosa and Bauhinia purpurea trees have stopped growing and premature shedding of foliage is commonly seen.
Misrepresented information from earlier article:
- The construction of complex is complete in 2010 only. None of the trees are 10 or 11 years old.
- No sandalwood trees on podium at all. The name is dropped only to create sensation and seek attention. There are no plans to remove date palms.
- The decision is not based on weight of soil and trees. It is just one of the aspects. As mentioned above, there are several other points, like roots damaging the podium, causing seepage, insufficient depth (1.5 ft) of soil on podium, wind velocity, under maintenance, etc.