“The court orders are very clear about the use of nails on trees and putting up hoardings. These are punishable offences and yet the practice is still common across the city,” said Ashish Garg, a city-based activist. “Businesses use the trees as props to attract customers. Some of them even concretise the base of the trees for their own gain, which harms the trees,” Garg added. Environmentalists said that the idea behind the court directive was to sensitise the public about the harm caused to trees, that are considered to be living beings and not inanimate objects.
These offences are punishable under the Prevention of Disfigurement Act, 1981.
“Stringing lights on trees is not covered by the directive and is a very common practice for cafes, eateries in order to create an ambience. Other businesses like jewellers, shopping stores also resort to this for attention and ‘beautification’. But the heat generated from these lights harms the trees and disrupts their nocturnal life. Also, most of them are still using nails to fix the lights on trees. These can cause infections, weigh down trees and damage them from the inside,” said Garg.
Business owners, in their defence, allege that their intention is not to cause harm. “I didn’t even know there were rules against this. Every other cafe and restaurant has done this here. Lights also help us mark the boundary, along with creating a customer-friendly vibe,” said a food truck owner.
Environmentalists, however, claim that most business owners use ignorance as an excuse when in reality they are aware of the rules. Meanwhile, forest department officials said that they keep conducting drives every now and then to check the menace. “We take action against offenders when complaints come in. Use of nails or putting up posters and hoardings is against the rules. Light fixtures and small hanging decorations are permitted as long as they don’t cause harm to the trees,” said Nitish Mani Tripathi, divisional forest officer, Dehradun.