THE government is preparing to launch a laudable initiative to plant trees in Kathmandu, starting with 500 trees in the Koteshwor-Suryabinayak stretch in the first phase. This initiative is laudable for several reasons. Most obviously, trees reduce pollution, but they also do much more. Studies have found that people who have less access to greenery are liable to depression, stress, and other psychological problems. Greenery has been found to increase performance, productivity, and even improve mood. And one does not need to be inside forests or wander in gardens for these benefits; just a glimpse of greenery and nature is enough. No wonder, many cities around the world, including New York, Toronto, and Delhi, have launched their own initiatives to increase greenery. Several modern cities have pre-planned spaces for greenery, but often it is hard to find much greenery in traditional cities whose growth has been organic and unplanned, like Kathmandu.
The initiative to plant trees in Kathmandu is certainly admirable, if it can be taken to its envisioned conclusion. The road from Koteshwor to Suryabinayak is already among the greener and more scenic roads in the valley; there are many other areas where tightly packed houses and congested roads leave little space for any greenery. We hope that the initiative expands (as promised) to these dust-covered parts of the valley. Young saplings are hard to take care of, but the government, to its credit, has a detailed plan to ensure their proper growth and survival. Trees that are already four to six feet high will be painted, which are easier to take care of, and also beautiful at the same time. Also, caretakers will be assigned for the trees, and the local community will be roped in as watchdogs. Again, this association should be long term for it to be fruitful, as a single tree can take up to 20 years to mature. Neglect could lead to trees dying off, which will mean a waste of a lot of money and energy. Thus it is important that the government gets long term commitment from local communities to nurture the saplings, which is essential to ensure that the trees reach their maturity.
With all the dust and grime from the ongoing street expansion, it is not surprising that the number of people wearing masks in Kathmandu has increased considerably in recent days. There could be no better time for Kathmandu to gain some trees that could help clean the environment. In fact, Kathmandu has recently lost much of its greenery when many trees were felled for road expansion, a move which was criticized by environmentalists and urban planners alike. Many experts were of the opinion that the road expansion has been more haphazard than necessary, and that with a little better planning, many more trees could have been saved. Hopefully, this initiative will go some way towards compensating for the lost greenery, even if it may take a few more years. They say the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, and the second best time is now; and this proverb is certainly applicable to Kathmandu. Right after a massive destruction of trees, the initiative to plant trees comes at the right time, and we hope it will be successful in countering some of the unintended consequences of road expansion.