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Over the decades, the tree in Andhra's Machilipatnam has hosted thousands of birds, and has been a shelter for numerous vendors and passersby, come rain or shine.

Residents of Machilipatnam, Vata Foundation standing in front of the translocated tree
Features Environment Thursday, September 02, 2021 - 13:06

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, at around 3 pm, a fruit vendor named Veerababu was sitting under a more than a 100-year-old tree in Andhra Pradesh’s Machilipatnam when the ground under his feet slowly started shaking. He looked up and saw that the tree had started slanting towards one side. Within seconds, the huge tree that gave him and his business shelter for the last three years fell in front of his eyes, and he barely escaped with his life.

“I was right below the tree with my banana cart. On that day, it was raining in the morning but the rain had subsided by afternoon. There was no wind or rain at the time of the incident, the tree just fell down. Though I could escape, my fruits and other nearby carts were damaged,” recalls Veerababu, who has now shifted his cart under another tree.

Residents say that over the decades, the tree has hosted thousands of birds of various species and has provided shelter to numerous vendors and passersby, come rain or shine. The tree withstood major cyclones that hit the coastal town of Machilipatnam in the past, and even the strong winds and rains during the tsunami of December 2004.

This tree, located in front of an LIC office on Kennedy Road, fell on August 21. However, residents were determined to bring it back to life, as it was a landmark that greeted them every day.

Speaking to The News Minute, K Chandrasekhar, a senior LIC clerk, said that when the news was shared on a local WhatsApp group, everybody was concerned and that it became a point of discussion even in the LIC office. The idea of translocating, or shifting the tree from one location to another, came up, as they had seen such a process being carried out in Vijayawada. The group decided to try this in Machilipatnam for the first time ever.

Chandrasekhar, along with other concerned residents — including JSL Kanth of the Facebook group Bandar Bandhuvulu, Chartered Accountant Anna Mani Ratnam and N Phani Prasanth of the Prakruthi Samskruthi Pari Rakhana Samstha — combined efforts to save the beloved tree. Representations were made to the LIC manager, the local municipal corporation, and the Sachivalayam on August 23, urging that the tree be translocated and not cut down.

After discussions, it was decided that Hyderabad-based Vata Foundation, which specialises in afforestation, would be their best bet, and the Machilipatnam residents contacted the foundation.

The translocation process begins

On August 24, Vata Foundation co-founder Uday Krishna and two of his team members arrived at Machilipatnam from Hyderabad to begin the translocation process.

"We reached Machilipatnam around 8.30 am and started the tree translocation by first cutting off the branches with the help of the local municipality. The process was completed by 3.30 pm, after many challenges," Uday said.

According to Uday, there were two trees growing at the same spot — a ficus tree was growing above a century-old African sausage tree, which is called enugu thondam in Telugu. "The whole weight of the ficus had fallen on the old tree over the years. So, unable to bear the weight, the tree collapsed."

The Vata team translocated the tree a few feet from its original location. They planted it in a six-foot-deep pit in such a manner that the roots of the ficus tree, which were above the older tree earlier, are now connected to the ground.

Uday added that due to regular branch trimmings for electric lines, the host tree was also damaged. Due to this, it had died from the inside and its structure had become weak. To protect the translocated tree, residents have now tied red cloths around it to protect it from pests and ants.

Vata Foundation members said that the translocated tree might see new leaves in as early as the next 15 days. It will have to be under observation for at least one year. "The tree also needs continuous watering, as some of the roots were cut off and the tree might not be able to get enough water naturally," Uday added.

Meanwhile, the residents said that even 10 days after the tree fell, the fallen branches have not been cleared by the municipality, and requested them to clear the area as soon as possible.

Also read: Artists in Kerala continue to create art despite hardships due to pandemic

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