Tax-Paying Citizens Fumed at MCC for Transplanting a Peepal Tree at a Cost of Rs 3 Lakhs?

Tax-Paying Citizens Fumed at MCC for Transplanting a Peepal Tree at a Cost of Rs 3 Lakhs?

Mangaluru: Couple of days ago, a 150-year-old Peepal tree located near Bunts Hostel, Mangaluru was transplanted to a place right in front of Sujir C V Nayak Hall, on Kadri Road-Mangaluru. Many citizens in that locality were happy that a tree was saved, but when Team Mangalorean interacted with many of them and told them the cost for shifting that Peepal tree was around Rs 3 lakhs, exclusive of electrical contractors and other labourers expenses, they were totally surprised, and these were some of their comments- “Absolutely Foolishness to spend that much money”; “Instead of spending Rs 3 lakhs in transplanting the tree, they could have planted nearly two lakh trees’; “I liked the idea in saving that Peepal tree, but not at that whopping tax-payers money”; “Couldn’t they come out of some other ideas, rather than wasting our money” and many more such comments.

Jeeth Milan Roche

Well said by these citizens who feel the brunt of their money being spent on such a job, but they were all helpless that nothing could be done to stop the shifting process. Mangaluru City Corporation which under Smart City project has been widening the roads are many areas, and the widening of the Bunts Hostel road had this Peepal tree as an obstruction- so they had planned to axe it down. But their efforts were interrupted by the activists of Bajrang Dal, who said that the Tree was sacred and should not be cut, and that they should follow a due procedure to axe it- and that was on 8 December. Even though MCC had the police protection in order to cut the tree, but that didn’t help.

The only source for MCC was to transplant the tree, no matter what the shifting cost was- and the right person to handle that job was Jeeth Milan Roche, who has until now transplanted few dozens of trees in the past. On that day, MCC Executive engineer Gururaj Maralihalli speaking to media had said, “It was important to remove the tree for road widening, but members of Bajrang Dal opposed the axing because it was a new moon day and not for any other purpose. MCC had taken requisite permission from all departments concerned and all procedures followed to uproot the tree. Regarding transplanting the tree, there is not much chance the tree will survive due to its age”. Having said that MCC couldn’t compromise with the environmentalists, Bajrang Dal members and other concerned NGO’s, the only option was Transplanting the Peepal tree.

Earlier Location of the Tree near Bunts Hostel

Even though all these environmentalists, saffron activists and others were there during the transplanting process on Saturday 9 December, none of them lends a helping hand, worrying that their hands would get dirty- they stayed with folded hands and watching the ONLY MAN ‘Jeeth Milan Roche’at the helm of this enormous task of shifting a 35-40 tonne tree. A crane which could lift objects/trees up to 100 tonnes was brought in from BC Road, and the rent for the crane per day was near to Rs 1 lakh- and the work lasted for more than a day. You do the rent math! Roche, a few months ago had transplanted yet another bigger tree, which was around 90-100 tonnes using a larger crane, and the cost for that project was nearly Rs 5 lakhs. Rumours are that in the nearest future yet another tree blocking the road widening had to be shifted at a cost of Rs 3-4 lakhs. Looking at the enormous cost of tree transplantation, citizens are concerned as to whose money MCC is spending without their approval. Of well! This is Mangaluru and this is how MCC works?

Urbanization and development are an inevitable part of living today. Road widening and building of flyovers have to happen in every city, but, this comes at the cost of losing green cover. Though transplantation and translocation of trees is an age-old activity the world across, it is rarely looked to as a solution before a tree is brought down. Planting new trees is a method we all know will improve the green cover and should definitely be adopted. But in cases where it is not possible, is the practice of translocation, not a great alternative? The age-old process of translocation involves uprooting trees and re-planting them in a different place. This process dates back to 2000 BC and was practiced in Egypt. It has recently attracted attention again with growing concerns over environmental issues.

And here in Mangaluru, we have one person who is the backbone of ‘Mangalore Green Brigade’ organization, Jeeth Roche who whenever gets the news that a tree or trees needed to be axed down to make way for roads or infrastructure, quickly steps in and suggests the idea of translocation of tree or trees, rather than killing them. And such an idea was used again to shift this Peepal tree. Jeeth has found a way to ensure development does not come at the cost of the environment, and who believes it is better to relocate trees rather than felling them.

The fast disappearing green cover compelled Roche to think, and he realized that something should be done to save trees rather than cut them when there is road widening or any other city development, where trees come in the way. Roche had this thought when he noticed many trees being cut down to widen the roads, and this made him to form “Mangalore Green Brigade” to plant more trees/save trees and make Mangaluru City Clean and Green. The process of relocating trees involves digging the earth at least 4-5 feet in diameter and depth around its roots and then treating the roots carefully during transportation. The process is slow and takes time and what makes it expensive is basically the need to hire earth movers, cranes, and trailers. But the cost factor is creating a controversial, and it all depends on the size of the tree and how much work/time has to be put in.

Recently Jeeth had transplanted a 300-year-old Tamarind tree, near Kankanady Pumpwell. When trees were being cut down, no one raised objection, so moved by this unfortunate incidents, Roche decided to do something to stop the indiscriminate felling of trees. Sources reveal that this practice of shifting trees has been around since 2000 BC, where Ancient Egyptian pictographs depict men transporting trees, with their roots, in large containers. “It is indeed amazing that a solution to the felling of large trees exists with humans for many centuries now. It is heartening to know that in most countries, the world over, trees are not cut down but are instead translocated. However, for some reason, in India, this is not as popular yet. But I am trying my best to introduce this system to the fullest here in Mangaluru” said Jeeth.

We all know that trees play a very important role in protecting the lives of all other living beings found around them. Most of our activities generate plenty of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases that pollute the atmosphere, and it is only trees that can convert these gases into oxygen and help counter the ill-effects. Trees take many years to grow and once fully grown, many species can live for more than a hundred years. The loss of even one tree in a vicinity can cause an imbalance in the natural wealth and health of the surrounding area. Tree translocation is a tedious process, which has to be done very carefully.

In the transplanting of this Peepal tree, after most of the tree branches were pruned, it was uprooted using a mega crane, and then transported using a large truck to the new place, just a few meters away from its original place, and where a root ball trench was already been made and the soil been treated with anti-pest and anti-disease chemicals. The shifted tree was then planted in the new trench, and for the next couple of months requires close monitoring. With cities rapidly losing green cover, including Mangaluru, there is an urgent need for more research on the viability of tree translocation, and it is becoming increasingly important that we take steps to save each and every full-grown tree.

But it is learnt that one needs to keep in mind that the process requires complete commitment on the planters’ behalf, for any kind of lapse could result in failure and loss of a tree. The development of Mangaluru is invariably connected with the boom of real estate and infrastructure projects. However, this comes at the cost of our trees, which face the axe on an exponential basis to give way for various development projects. One expansive project results in thousands of trees being felled. But what we do not realize is the fact that a fully matured tree once gone is gone forever and any sapling planted in its place would take a very long time even to spread its branches. While it takes a lot more than desktop activism and campaigning to stop the concerned authorities from axing the trees, what can be done instead is to transplant them. Sources reveal that although municipal authorities have been implementing the transplantation through mechanized support and massive machinery, the process can actually be undertaken by a group of individuals as well.

Present Location of the Tree opposite to Sujir CV Nayak Hall, Kadri Road

In conclusion in my perspective, it was indeed a good idea to transplant a tree rather than axing it. But at the same time, it should be noted as to who is paying for the transplanting cost. The environmentalists nor the saffron activists will contribute towards the expenses-they will be only suggesting and giving orders, and that’s it. Call it a Publicity Stunt? Okay, now, coming to a point- what in case this Peepal Tree has uprooted due to winds or nature’s wrath, and fallen on to the road, would MCC or other concerned departments would save it and transplant. I don’t think so- the tree will be quickly chopped, making way for the traffic. Similarly a few months ago, an old-tree got uprooted and fell on the road near Canara High School-Mannagudda, but no one saved and transplanted it-instead the fire brigade crew and labourers quickly chopped the tree into pieces, and made way for traffic and pedestrians.

So what’s the logic behind Tree transplanting? Transplanting trees in certain cases, and chopping it down in other cases. Total nonsense, and doesn’t make any sense. Trees need to be shifted no matter what, either they got uprooted by weather or they are obstructing a development project. In the case of an age-old tree or a religious importance tree, we don’t allow a tree to be axed or to die, but how many of us would come forward to spend tax-payers money to help a homeless or a destitute sick who is about to die on the road. Seems like human life is not important for our administration. How about taking care of starving stray dogs, who lose their lives due to starvation- does anyone cares about it. Seems like lives of animals are not our concern. I guess ONLY TREES at the moment?

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