Observers

In the past two months, on at least three occasions, rows of trees have been surreptitiously cut down during the cover of night along roads in Bangalore, in southern India. Each time, these trees were located suspiciously close to advertising billboards and had blocked drivers from seeing the ads clearly. But fed-up citizens are now fighting back against what they call "serial tree killers".

The latest incident occurred on May 11. Sunil Mederametla, a software engineer, was driving on Bangalore’s Outer Ring Road, near his home, when he noticed that 25 trees on the road’s median strip had been cut down in a haphazard fashion. He went back to investigate along with members of a local volunteer organization he belongs to that work on social and environmental issues.

“The only logical reason for butchering these trees was to clear the view of a billboard that advertised real estate”

At first I wasn’t certain what was going on. But we spoke to neighbors who told us the trees had been cut overnight, and we realized that with a lake on one side, and no commercial buildings on the other side of this portion of the road, the only logical reason for butchering these trees was to clear the view of a billboard that advertised real estate.

We asked around to see if we could find video surveillance footage, but unfortunately the nearest cameras were located too far away from the scene of the crime.

We contacted the local authorities, who quickly took down the billboard and have launched an investigation.

Billboard being taken down. Photo shared on Facebook by Sunil Mederametla.
 

Myself and other volunteers, including tree conservationist Vijay Nishanth [who’s known in Bangalore as the “tree doctor”] went back to treat the cut trees with fungicide. Since it’s the rainy season, fungus may form on the trunk, but this treatment should help their chance of survival. We’re already seeing some of the trees starting to grow back.
 

“Bangalore is called 'the Garden City', but it’s becoming a concrete jungle”

This is the third such incident in the past two months, all on the same road, all near billboards. And last year, trees near a billboard advertising the latest iPhone were killed using another method: by poisoning them with acid.

Bangalore is called “the Garden City”. But in recent years, there’s been so much construction that it’s becoming a concrete jungle. So we must do everything we can to save the trees we have.

We’re holding protests and posting updates online so that people hear about this issue, and don’t hesitate to contact the authorities if they notice similar incidents.

 

Protesters gathered on Bangalore's Outer Ring Road on Saturday May 19 to protest against the chopping down of trees in the city.

We’re also going to campaign for the city authorities to drastically limit the number of billboards along the roads, and we’ll be following their investigations closely. We hope there will be swift action against the perpetrators, so that it sends a strong signal to others who might be thinking of cutting down trees near billboards…