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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Why the Central Vista trees aren’t happy about being cut and moved

The day they found their voice, they demanded to be declared sacrosanct and part of a sacred grove, that even lopping off a branch should amount to 10 years of jail.

Written by Ranjit Lal | Updated: December 6, 2020 2:33:40 pm
One venerable old tree tells Down in Jungleland’s botanical correspondent that some of his fellas have ostensibly already been shifted.

One location where some of the over 400 trees from the Central Vista will be moved and transplanted, owing to a grand new project is, apparently, the NTPC eco-park in Badarpur, over 20 km away. One venerable old tree tells Down in Jungleland’s botanical correspondent that some of his fellas have ostensibly already been shifted.

DIJ: Isn’t this a great, empathetic move on part of the Government? In the old days, they would have simply hacked you to pieces and made a killing from the sale of your wood. Now, not only are they transplanting you but will also be planting 10 new saplings in your place.

Tree: Have you forgotten that we aren’t ordinary, but heritage trees? We’ve been here, in the centre of power, for decades — generations of babus have sat gossiping away under our shade in summer afternoons. Children have gleefully climbed our boughs and plucked our fruit. And now they’re just shunting us off to places like Badarpur, famous only for its dust? Would you dismantle the Taj Mahal or Meenakshi Temple and reconstruct them in godforsaken wasteland just so you could build some ugly government structure in their location, and stroke your ego? And then, say, “oh don’t worry”, we’ll build 10 more mini-Taj Mahals and Meenakshi Temples if the originals collapse.

DIJ: Think of it as you’re going to a new home and they’re planting 10 fresh saplings in addition. In the end there will be more trees.

Tree: Not all of us are going to survive the move: several have already approached their therapists and are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Second, we know only too well how good governments are at maintenance — after a month, they’ll just forget all about us. As for the 10 saplings — a total of 4,000-plus — where will they plant them? Even if they find space, in no time some big developer will want to put up a massive condominium or shopping plaza there — and it will be “off with their heads” all over again. If by then, goats haven’t eaten them.

DIJ: It’s not always like that. See how well the Metro has been maintained.
Tree: Bah! Don’t talk to me about the Metro. Do you know how many venerable old trees, which witnessed the making of history, were slaughtered in its cause? Nothing short of a massacre — a crime against botany. Who do you think supplies oxygen to this city? We suck up the carbon-dioxide and all the other muck you spew, that’s like breathing in your farts 24×7, and we give you oxygen in return. Some gratitude is in order here!
(By now, a host of birds and squirrels have gathered into what seems like a vociferous Jantar Mantar protest.)
Squirrels et al: We’ve been living on these trees for eons. We’ve families with babies. This is our home! So, one can go to jail for seven years for killing a peacock, but what about massacring trees wholesale and everything living in them, is that perfectly all right? You make us sick!

Tree: Look at what you’re about to do in Dehradun, and what they’ve done in so many other national parks and sanctuaries. Lakhs of trees have been slaughtered, in the name of what you call “development”, which is nothing but destruction.

DIJ: Well, you, squirrels and birds, can always follow the trees, where they’re replanted, and set up home again.
Squirrels et al: It’s all about location, location, location! Your great ministers pass snide remarks about Khan Market and “Luchens” Delhi and the “suit-boot” crowd — and where do they live? Would you rather live in Jor Bagh or some derelict dust-heap in Uttar Pradesh, with frequent power cuts, water scarcity and robbery?

DIJ: The government will surely hear your grievances.
Squirrels et al: Oh, give us a break! If we enter their offices, they come after us “vermin” with lathis and brooms.

DIJ: Don’t lose heart. There was this remarkable case, in Goa or was it in Bengaluru — where they diverted a highway around a venerable old tree that was in the way.

Tree: If we’ve been living in a place for over 50 years, how come we are always in the way? We were there first. So naturally the highway has to skirt respectfully around the tree — which is more than can be said regarding what’s happening here.

DIJ: So, what laws would you like to see framed for your better protection?

Tree et al: That we’re declared sacrosanct: That you can go to jail for 10 years if you so much as lop a branch, forget about cutting us down. The government keeps harking back to how great we were in ancient times: well have they thought about the sacred groves that flourished then? That’s an example to follow. Declare the trees in the Central Vista as part of a sacred grove.

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