Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Where the Wild Things Are: A book on most suitable trees for Delhi

delhi-talk-L Pradip has now collaborated with Delhi-based activist-environmentalist Padmavati Dwivedi of Compassionate Living. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anan)
Written by Pallavi Pundir | Posted: August 21, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: August 21, 2014 11:35 am

Pradip Krishen’s engagement with trees has been long known. In 2006, the 65-year-old’s Trees of Delhi (Dorling Kindersley) became a critically-acclaimed comprehensive guide to more than 250 species of trees in and around Delhi. He has now collaborated with Delhi-based activist-environmentalist Padmavati Dwivedi of Compassionate Living, an organisation that works in the areas of urban tree protection, for a 25-page booklet titled Pradip Krishen’s List of 100 Most Suitable Trees for Delhi (NCR) (published by Compassionate Living, Rs 50). A compact handbook, it tells how to plant the “right” ones in a “mosaic of micro-habitats”, for them to survive. Excerpts from an interview:

What draws you to Delhi and its trees? Your research and books on trees have often pointed out the most common problem of growing them — that of extreme temperature. Does that make the study more fascinating?

It’s only because I call Delhi ‘home’. This is where I spend most of my time and where I can study them. Extreme temperatures is not something that’s limited to the Delhi region. There are vast swathes of northern and central India where this occurs, a nd these places too support dry, deciduous natural forests that are not only beautiful and endangered, they’re also full of adaptations and natural phenomena that make for fascinating study.

What are the challenges of identifying the ‘right’ trees for Delhi’s diverse soil zones?

Over time, if you’re a careful observer, one forms firm impressions about how trees cope with environmental conditions in any given place. My list is quite simply a distillation of what I’ve learned and seen about which trees do well here, in different sorts of sub-habitats. I’ve also included a few trees, not many, that are not from Delhi but nearby places, like those further south along the Aravallis. They’ve been included not because they’ve done well in Delhi but because I have reasons to believe they will. My confidence is based on planting them elsewhere in fairly similar conditions, finding that they require environmental conditions similar to those in parts of
the NCR.

Are there any new findings to your personal record of Delhi/NCR trees in recent years? Perhaps some that are not in the 2006 book, but have found mention in this publication.

I’ve subverted my own list! I’m responsible for introducing something like 40 or so trees into Delhi that weren’t in my book. This has mostly to do with my stint with the Aga Khan Foundation when I was working at Sundar Nursery in 2009. My brief was to create an arboretum of trees and plants. I picked an assemblage of plants that were from neighbouring biomes — eastern Rajasthan, western Madhya Pradesh, and so on. A large number of them were native Delhi plants that had disappeared as the city grew. So to answer your question, yes, there’s a whole lot more trees that continued…

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