For perhaps the first time in Hyderabad's history, a Gram Panchayat is leading by example, after it accepted to bear some expenses for translocating over 100 trees from the city's Kukatpally area.
The Peltophorum trees were going to axed for a flyover, under the Telangana government's Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP), which aims to construct multi-layer flyovers over 20 junctions in the city.
The Manikonda Gram Panchayat has agreed to work with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and two NGOs, to translocate trees from the Malaysian Township, to a burial ground near Lanco Hills.
"It was a joint decision taken at a meeting of the Gram Panchayat on Tuesday. We even have an Environment Protection Committee, and all locals unanimously agreed to bear the costs," Manikonda Sarpanch K Narender Reddy told TNM.
"The NGOs will bear the cost of translocation. However, we are taking care of the digging, labour and providing cranes at the burial ground. Once the trees are shifted, we will take full responsibility of them," he adds.
The process of tree translocation involves the trees being uprooted, instead of being chopped, and being re-planted at a different location.
Workers first 'prune' the trees, which involves cutting a majority of its branches and leaves, before they dig a deep hole around the tree's trunk and use a crane to pull it up, without damaging its roots.
It is then loaded onto a large transport vehicle, which takes the tree to its destination, where it will be planted again in a bit that's readily dug up in anticipation.
Two NGOs are actively involved in the translocation process - the VATA foundation and Dhruvansh.
Madhulika Choudhary from Dhruvansh told TNM, "The trees will start be moved at around 5.30am on June 24, and be shifted to a burial ground in Manikonda spread out over seven acres."
Work has already started at the burial ground with the digging of pits.
"Today, we started digging up pits, as we need at least 5 to 6 feet deep pits for the trees to be placed in, and we need to water them too. We are getting the ground ready," Madhulika adds.
(The burial ground)
The state's SRDP project, has also seen activists fighting against the axing of trees in the city's iconic Kasu Brahmananda Reddy (KBR) park for more than a year now.
Every Sunday, activists and citizens gather outside the park with placards, sloganeering against the move to chop down the park's green cover.
However, even as they managed to move the Hyderabad High Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT) to delay the construction, work had begun for a 1.23-km long flyover between Forum Sujana Mall and Rajiv Gandhi Statue Junction near JNTU, in February this year.
"These trees have been marked to be cut down for the flyover months ago. They were actually supposed to have chopped them in summer itself, but we spoke to the GHMC and asked them to hold on till the monsoon," says Uday Krishna Pedirerri from the Vata Foundation.
This was because monsoon is the ideal time to translocate trees, as the summer is too dry.
"While they initially agreed, they rolled back their decision and told us that they were going to chop them down. However, two local communities had objected to the project design of the flyover, and the delay in construction has given us time to begin translocating them," he adds.
While the translocation of trees ideally can take up to 3 weeks for the entire process, the activists plan to shift 100 trees in two days.
"We are already in the process of pruning them, and we try to re-plant the trees within one and a half hours from when they are pulled out," Uday says.
As far as funds to translocate the trees are concerned, VATA foundation has managed with the help of a few sponsors and donors, to cover equipment, labour and transport charges.
"We are trying to wrap up the translocation of all the trees within Rs 4 lakh, which is still much cheaper than private contractors," Uday says.
When asked about the survival rate of the trees, Uday says, "Survival depends on how soon they plant back. We'll move it as quick as possible, and handle the trees with care, and hope that all of them survive. Either way, we would have saved at least a few trees that were going to be chopped down."