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This Hyderabad Organisation is Saving trees – by Moving Them One at a Time!

To bring back biodiversity, we need to save our trees. Relocation of grown trees is a feasible possibility as proved by the Vata Foundation.

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Ever wondered where the sparrows have gone? Remember how, not so long ago, these little brown birds and several other winged species were a regular fixture in and around the city? The loss of green cover, increase in pollution and irreverent cutting down of older trees has resulted in the diminishing bird population. The answer to how to save trees may lie in tree relocation.

“In about a decade from now, we are going to be hard pressed to see a tree that is 20-25 years old around Hyderabad or any other city,” rues Uday Krishna – founder of Vata Foundation.

Uday Krishna
Co-Founder of Vata Foundation

Uday says, “In our race to become ‘developed’, we are ignoring a key element – our green cover.” Neatly manicured, landscaped gardens do not attract biodiversity. They are not going to bring back the butterflies, squirrels or birds. Saving our trees is the only way.

As a growing city, we need to have wider roads, flyovers and apartment complexes. “In fact, my journey started when I submitted a tender in 2010 for a foot-over bridge in Kukatpally, Hyderabad,” Uday reminisces. While conducting a survey, I realized that 16 fully grown Peltophorum pterocarpum (yellow flame tree) were marked for cutting. The authorities marked them as non-relocatable. I was in a conundrum as to what to do.

While walking around, I came upon a street right next door that was completely devoid of trees. Once the situation was explained to them, the residents of the street supported the idea of relocating the trees.

In a positive turn of events, 15 of those 16 trees survived and continue to adorn the street.

Peltophorum Pterocarpum (yellow flame tree)
A popular ornamental tree that shows high tolerance to pollution

This incident was an eye-opener for Uday Krishna. Along with his friends, Jyothi Konda and Sumesha Thoutireddy, the Vata Foundation was formed. The core focus of the foundation was to ‘Save the tiger and its jungle’ but it slowly expanded to include the relocation of trees. Why, the very logo of the foundation is the Tree of Life emblem, one that denotes the family of the Fig tree in the Indus script.

Sometimes you win, sometimes the environment loses

Three years ago, when the Raidurgam road in Hyderabad was getting widened, about 300 trees were identified as being in the path of the expansion plan. But instead of chopping them down, the officials chose to retain them. They were placed in the middle of the road and on the sidewalks. This was one of the most demonstrative cases of a of win-win.

This example teaches us that the environment, and trees, in particular, have to be a part of the plan right from the get-go, and not just incorporated as an afterthought.

Trees as a priority
Planning for the environment is a priority, not an afterthought

During a road widening project next to the Hyderabad Botanical Garden, the permission to relocate 198 trees that were in the way was denied. Uday Krishna went to court and filed a PIL, but unfortunately, the court was on vacation at the time. When the judge finally read the petition and granted permission to relocate the trees, 133 trees had already been cut. The judge came down heavily on the authorities, and Vata Foundation was allowed to relocate the remaining trees.

The felling is pretty ironic, considering the Botanical Park is a 120-acre area of land in the Kothaguda Reserve Forest especially allotted to preserve different varieties of plants and trees.

In the recent past, 92 trees were identified, and a bulk of them (72) was relocated to a graveyard near Manikonda where the Sarpanch came forward in support. All the trees have continued to thrive.

Relocating a tree
Precision and patience are the keys for a successful translocation.

One tree that educated an entire district

As part of an interview, a reporter put in Uday’s number in a local newspaper on the 23rd of July. As a result, he was inundated with calls from various parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Uday smiles and shares, “I received such crazy calls. There was one claiming a tree in their yard was inauspicious according to Vaastu, and would I relocate it free of cost for them. But amongst all these calls, one stood out.”

A teacher in Government Girls School from Nagarkarnool, Ms. Yashodha appealed to Uday and his team, to come and save a Jungli Jalebi tree (Pithecellobium Dulce/ Ganges Tamarind) that had collapsed months before during a storm. The tree continued to show signs of life.

Jungli Jalebi tree
A tree worth saving.

Ms. Yashodha was very keen to save this one tree as its fruits were enjoyed by all the children and little animals and birds as well. Amid a host of Eucalyptus and Subabul trees, this one Jungli Jalebi tree had held its own for 30 years, and the soon-to-retire teacher refused to let it go without a fight.
Uday and his team chose to see the tree as a means to educate the masses. They traveled 130 Kms from Hyderabad, surveyed the situation and hired a JCB to help with setting the tree back in its place. It took them three hours to get the job done.

They were cheered along continuously by 400-500 children, village heads, half the town, and the media.

In good company
Cheering school children, village heads, and media.

An entire district learned about the possibilities of replanting. And Ms. Yashodha went from being ridiculed to a hero.

Ms. Yashodha
The teacher (center) who helped to educate a district about tree translocation.

Steps followed for relocation of trees

● Identify the tree/s to be moved and also the place it needs to be moved to (ideally, the location should be close by)
● Write to the concerned authorities for permission (pro tip: mentioning you would do it ‘free of cost’ has a way of smoothening the path)
● If the trees are identified during the peak of summer, ask for permission to wait till monsoon
● Avoid relocation during the Rohini/Karthik period (traditionally the hottest fortnight of the year)
● Once the place of relocation is identified, money needs to be arranged for hiring the JCB, labour, truck. Usually, the people who agree to host the tree/s also pay for the move. The costing depends upon the size of the tree, number of trees and the distance it needs to be moved to. The cost, therefore, varies from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 25,000/-
● It takes about 2-3 days of planning and organizing. If done adhering to scientific methods, the time taken may go up to 2-3 weeks. Usually, that kind of time is not available.
● The root ball needs to be taken care of and packed perfectly. Once the tree has been extracted, it needs to be planted as soon as possible (benevolence of traffic Gods is sought here)

Uday and his team have identified 300 plus trees that need relocating in and around Hyderabad. They are looking for people to come forward and adopt these trees. You can help to save trees too.

Uday and his team believe that “One grown tree is worth 100 saplings.”

Team Vata Foundation
Tree warriors of Vata Foundation

To adopt a tree or know more, get in touch with Uday Krishna: uday@vatafoundation.org

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