Though well-intended by the Tourism Department, the concrete layer prevents water percolating into the soil for the tree’s roots.

After protests concrete path around Bengalurus 400-year-old Big Banyan Tree removed
news Environment Friday, October 19, 2018 - 11:55

Timely activism and a subsequent media scrutiny might just have saved the fate of the Big Banyan Tree in Kethohalli village in the outskirts of Bengaluru, 8 km off Mysuru Road. In fact, according to the Horticulture Department it is the fourth biggest banyan tree in India and is close to 400 years old. A notice board at the spot says around 2000, the main root of the tree had died due to natural reasons but due to the expansion of the tree with other peripheral roots, it seems like it’s a collection of many trees spreading over an area of three acres.

So far, the Horticulture Department, which was maintaining the popular tourist destination well, had put up a fence all around the tree and paved a cobbled walking path with cement seats for visitors. But recently one frequent visitor noticed that the stone pathway, in an ill-conceived plan, was getting replaced by a layer of concrete as part of the Tourism Department’s initiative.

Activists took to WhatsApp to spread the message among fellow environmentalists and by mid October, the message went viral and the issue was covered by the media as well, which alerted Horticulture Department officials. People on social media also called for the intervention of government officials to stop the work.

Bengaluru Central MP PC Mohan tweeted calling it a “mindless move” and a “destructive idea”, tagging the Tourism Department and the Chief Minister.

Despite some initial reluctance, top Horticulture Department officials admitted that the plan although well-intended by the Tourism Department would have proved to be disastrous given that the concrete layer would stop water percolating into the soil for the tree’s roots.

Now, Horticulture Department officials are removing the concrete slab and replacing it with cobblestones which will allow water to seep through.

Officials of the Tourism Department could not be reached for comment.

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