Too Hot ? It’s Tree Time
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Too Hot ? It’s Tree Time

March 30, 2024

Our city is getting hotter with every passing year. As temperatures soared yesterday, the Karnataka Government advised citizens to turn into camels: “Drink sufficient water whenever possible, even if you are NOT thirsty.”

But where is the water to drink when our cities are as dry as a desert? Instead of just issuing some orders from their AC chambers in Vidhana Soudha, shouldn’t the Government authorities get their hands dirty and plant some ‘green guardians’ to fight this heat wave for the long haul?

It has been confirmed that trees are the only way to scuttle urban heat waves. Yet, our Government doesn’t do much to that end.

In 2013, scientists ran a simple experiment in Bengaluru. They compared stretches of roads with and without trees. It was found that the road stretches lined with trees had much lower surface and ambient air temperature. Of course, no one was surprised, but…

But what was surprising, though, is how much the temperature was reduced. The difference in road surface temperature was 21.5 degrees! The highest road surface temperature recorded in a segment with no trees was 55 degrees, while the segment with tree cover was 33.5 degrees.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in 2017, using Satellite imagery from 1973 to 2017, showed that there has been an 88 percent decline in green spaces in Bengaluru.

The same report warned that by 2020, only 2.96 percent of the green cover will remain in Bengaluru and added that in the future, this would make the “region greenhouse gas-rich, water scarce and unliveable, depriving the city dwellers of clean air, water and environment.” It’s come true.

Yet a reply to an RTI query revealed that the Bangalore Development Authority had not planted a single tree for two years, from 2017 to 2019, while simultaneously giving approvals for numerous layouts !

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As more and more layouts are developed, more trees will be cut and Mysuru, like Bengaluru, is bound to get hotter.

It is the right time to make a case for turning large parks with garish statues, amateurish animal figurines and gaudy fountains into an urban forest with walking paths and ponds.  

Mysuru, in 2021, had a forward-thinking officer — Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Dr. K.C. Prashanth Kumar, who had said that his Department had a blueprint for increasing green cover and even had planned urban forests within the city.

This urban forest concept was implemented on a small scale behind Cheluvamba Park at                          Vontikoppal. The Forest Department also identified Lalithadrinagar, KSRTC Layout, Vijayanagar

4th Stage and J.P. Nagar as areas with the potential to nurture urban forests. Dr. Prashanth Kumar left, and with him, the urban forest project.

The issue with us is that we constantly find a ‘workaround’ to a problem instead of demanding that our Governments solve the problem once and for all.

Let us start with water. Just a few decades ago, in the early 1990s, almost no one knew what a ‘submersible pump’ was. We all had an overhead tank to which MCC would provide a direct connection and a water meter, and we would have a steady supply of decently clean water.

Then, MCC’s water supply became erratic and the tax-paying middle class did not have time to protest, so we invested in ‘Plan B’ — a sump tank.

Today, every other house has a sump tank to store water apart from the overhead tank. Some of us even have a borewell and now we are all very familiar with the term ‘submersible pump.’

Same with electricity. Earlier, people knew only three words related to electricity — transformer, short circuit and fuse. When the Government failed to give us consistent and steady electricity, instead of protesting, we just invested in ‘Plan B’ — inverters.

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Today, every other house has an inverter and we are all familiar with terms like KVA, distilled water, battery leads, etc.

It is the same regarding other essential aspects of urban Indian life, even basic ones like              education, roads, hospitals and drinking water.

Government schools are bad, no problem, we’ve got ‘Plan B’ — private schools.

Bad roads, no problem, go to ‘Plan B’ — extended warranty on our vehicles.

Government Hospitals are inhospitable, no problem, go to ‘Plan B’ — private hospitals.

No clean drinking water in public space, no problem, go to ‘Plan B’— Bisleri.

Now our cities are hot and instead of demanding Government-run afforestation programmes and reviving the Mysuru Urban Forest programme, we have a ‘Plan B’ — air conditioners. Ironically, keeping us cool while making our city hotter.

Air conditioners were unheard of in Mysuru just 20 years ago. Today, it’s in our cars, in our offices and in our homes. The use of air conditioners has grown at the same rate as the rise of layouts all around the city.

So, Mysuru needs some serious ‘greening up’ before it becomes an unliveable ‘oven’                          like Bengaluru.

To do that, we can start by calling our local Corporators and demanding tree planting in our area.

Next, we must support ‘pragmatic’ NGOs that push for greenery and keep at bay irrational tree-hugger NGOs; they usually miss the woods for the trees and end up creating more news and nuisance than planting trees.

It’s time to turn the heat on the Government to cool down our cities before we all melt into puddles of sweat and regret.

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