NGT orders de-concretization around trees in Vrindavan

The green court has directed the Mathura Vrindavan – Municipal Corporation and Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority to de-concretize at least one meter space around trees.

2023.01. 14 (Vrindavan Today News): In the matter pertaining to the reckless and excessive concretization of open spaces in Vrindavan, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority and Mathura Vrindavan Municipal Corporation to take remedial action for de-concretizing at least one meter space around trees and file an Action Taken Report in this regard within three months.

The petition highlighted end-to-end concretization of roads, including around the roots of trees, in the areas of Banke Bihari Colony, Ramanreti, Kailash Nagar, Chaitanya Vihar and Yamuna Parikarma Marg in the city of Vrindavan in violation of the Orders of the Tribunal in OA No. 165/2013, titled Akash Vashishtha vs. Union of India.

These allegations were found to hold as per the factual status and action taken report furnished by a Joint Committee (JC) of the State Pollution Control Board (nodal agency for coordination and compliance), DFO, and District Magistrate, Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) constituted by the Tribunal.

The report, filed in July 2022, was based on site inspection carried out by the JC in May 2022. Findings revealed that area surrounding the trees has been completely concretized up to the stem of the trees which is bound to suffocate/retard the growth of the same in the course of their lifetime.

Concretization around the trees

The Tribunal had already given directions in OA No. 167/2015 titled as Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action Vs. Deputy Commissioner and another for de-concretization of the area surrounding the trees for their survival/proper growth, in the past.

Further, these activities also violate the MoUD (Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation) ‘Guidelines for Greening of Urban Areas and Landscape (2000)’, and ‘Action Plan for Flood-proofing of Cities and Towns (2013)’, providing directions on avoiding excessive tiling of pavements and usage of porous material.

The Guidelines clearly state that tiling should be done only on pavements with heavy pedestrian traffic, growth of grasses should be encouraged, roots of the trees should be protected, and topsoil should be preserved while taking up civic works.

Government Order of the State of Uttar Pradesh dated 23.03.2018, also prohibits the use of interlocking tiles for construction of roadsides.

Despite these guidelines and government and court orders, concretization of open spaces in Vrindavan has become a pervasive phenomenon that has in its grip almost the entire holy town and not just the areas highlighted in the petition. Apart from the facts that the loss of Braj-Raj hurts the religious sentiments of devotees, causes inconvenience to people in general, and hampers the development of other essential civic infrastructure/facilities, it also has adverse health and environmental consequences that vary in intensity from mild to hazardous.

Rampant use of interlocking tiles and non-porous material for construction does not allow the water to percolate, thus leading to frequent water logging and lowering of groundwater table. Concretization around trees weakens their roots which are no longer able to support or nourish the stem. Many trees either stop flourishing or get uprooted during storms and heavy rains due to their weak foundations. Tiling around the roots hampers the basic necessary functions and needs of the trees. Root aeration and availability of water also get drastically reduced.

Loss of green spaces/trees does not allow biodiversity to flourish in the region. Birds, cattle and other animals struggle to find a suitable place to rest or roost, and often get injured due to excessively heated or cooled surfaces. Moreover, excessive concretization also contributes to increase in temperature and greenhouse gasses as a result of ‘Urban Heat Island’ formation.

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