Bangalore Environment Trust Newsletter, June 1998

Sat, 03/03/2007 - 19:09 admin


The Ficus trees of Bangalore - attempts to preserve them

It is cheering to report that the project initiated by the Karnataka Heritage Society to identify and protect the Banyan and Peepal trees of Bangalore has made some progress. A project of this kind involves a great deal of inter-departmental coordination, and it is interesting to recall what happened during the course of the past two years.

The KHS decided to bring out a brochure, with photographs of some of the more impressive Peepal and Banyan trees of the city. The brochure was produced by Zafar Futehally and S.G. Neginhal and has been widely distributed. There are also a report in the Press about this project. This is what the brochure said about the Banyan and the Peepal:
"The Banyan: Excepting the high hills, the Banyan grows throughout India and is revered for its many virtues. Apart from shade and shelter, it provides food to innumerable insects, birds, and animals throughout the year, unlike other species which fruit  only at certain seasons. The leaves of the Banyan are used as sacred platters, a practice which may have some medicinal value, while its dry twigs are always used for kindling the sacred fire.

If the aerial roots of the Banyan are given an opportunity to reach the ground, they provide crutches for its old age, and in fact a new tree grows out of the new roots enabling it to spread over a large area and survive for thousands of years. A great Banyan tree in the Royal Botanical Garden of Calcutta is the largest in the world, having been planted in 1782. Another famous tree in Andhra is said to have a circumference of 2000 ft., have over 3000 trunks, under which 20,000 people could take shelter.

The Peepal is a large tree with an erect trunk, and provides excellent shade by its widely spreading branches. The leaves are smooth and heart shaped with a long stalk and a pointed apex. With the slightest breeze the leaves are set in a sparkling and tinkling motion and provide a glorious sight. Birds are the agents for dispersing the seeds, which often germinates in the most inhospitable places like the walls of buildings and rock surfaces. The Peepal is known for the fact that Lord Gautham Buddha obtained enlightenment under its shade at Bodha Gaya more than 2000 years ago. Like the banyan, the Peepal too is a common tree in Bangalore and well protected by the local community for its religious significance. Apart from the religious myths and legends which surround it, almost all parts of the tree, including its bark, have some medicinal value.

The Peepal too, is capable of reaching a great age. A record in the Kew Gardens in England, gives the age of a Peepal tree at Anuradhapura in 1852 to be 2147 years old.

The next step was to persuade the corporation of Bangalore to agree to put up a plaque on selected trees informing the public that these ficus trees were a special heritage of Bangalore and should not be cut down or mutilated. Shri. A Ravindra, then Principal Secretary to Government, Forest, Environment and Ecology Department, wrote on 24.08.96: "We will be happy to put up a notice in the name of the Department of Environment on each Banyan and Ficus tree." (FEE 220 PSG 96). This action has not yet been taken in spite of several meetings with several persons. But the matter will be pursued.

It is evident that the Karnataka Electricity Board has to play a major role in the protection of these trees because they are responsible for much of the hacking that is done to prevent the branches from coming into contact with the live wires. (Fig. 1) In a note prepared by the Karnataka Heritage Society it was stated:
"Shri Zafar Futehally, in a move to protect Ficus trees in an around Bangalore from damage from electric wires (KEB staff resort to hacking of branches and create wide gaps in the centre to pass wires) had suggested to KEB that efforts should be made to shift the electric wires away from the trees so that these trees are not affected. Where this is not possible, the wires passing through the trees should be Well insulated or realigned in order to prevent the trees being mutilated. Several letters were exchanged and meetings were held between him and the officials of KEB."

The Additional Secretary, KEB, has now informed Shri Futehally as follows: "Instructions have been given to SEE BC-I to take up the work of re-routing of 11 KV lines wherever it is possible and where it is not very expensive, on priority basis to save the Banyan and Peepal trees in and around Bangalore. In locations where suggestions of use of underground cable has been made to protect the trees. the use of aerial bunched cables which are insulated cables tied to the poles - will be examined as they are cheaper solution compared to the use of underground cables and tree trimming would not be necessary. Further action will be taken as soon as some offers are received.

The SEE BC- I has been asked to give priority for locations where the deviation of lines can be done easily to protect trees. KEB would strive to do its best in this difficult task of maintaining power supply without damaging/destroying trees, to start with at least in BangaIore."

While it is hoped that the K.E.B. will play its part in saving these glorious trees. they have received welcome support from a private firm RAYCHEM RPG Limited (2C Jubilee Building. 45 Museum Road. Bangalore - 560 025 Phone: 558 8167, 558 7138.) This Firm has offered to work in cooperation with K.E.B. Raychem can supply and install an insulating cover from the overhead wires passing through the trees. A demonstration was given at Sarjapur Road. The photo shows the insulation cover slipped on to the wire. and this will make it unnecessary for the K.E.B. to hack the branches again. The cost of supply and installation of the Raychem MV-OLC insulating cover is Rs.500/- per metre. In a letter of June 17th. the Company said "Raychem RPG would be willing to undertake the installation of (insulating covers) even for one or two trees for individuals and/or housing societies wishing to protect the beauty of the trees outside their houses ..... installation will be carried out on a free of charge basis."

It is to be hoped that a tripartite effort by K.E.B., Raychem and interested individuals and business houses, will result in the complete protection of the Banyan and Peepal trees of Bangalore. We are greatly beholden to these trees for shade, shelter and beauty.


Zafar Futehally

Civic Journalism: Strengthening Municipal Governance through Neighborhood Newspapers

The trend of increasing decentralisation of municipal governance has resulted in the emergence of a new set of actors in the governance arena. Of particular relevance is the enhanced role of community involvement and participation in managing the affairs of their neighbourhoods. The potency of this involvement be it micro level initiatives like improving the system of collecting garbage in residential areas, or addressing larger issues like organising citizens to bring about transparency and probity in elections to public offices has been amply illustrated. In all these experiments and initiatives, information played a critical role in catalysing the community to action.

Decentralisation of governance necessitates the evolution of strong local depositories of information. These depositories become absolutely relevant given the growing importance of the Citizen-elected councillor-local executive triad. The proliferation of locality based news in newspapers, locality focus in cable television etc. strengthens the move towards these decentralised information depositories.

Neighbourhood Newspapers (NNP) are relatively untried and less explored media to invigorate the concept of local information depository in the Indian context. The forum has a more evolved history in the West, where NNPs are seen as powerful conduits of information and change at the local level. Moreover, they are also seen as good entrepreneurial ventures serving a social purpose. Given the fact that the educated middle class in most of the metropolises are today taking on a more proactive role to articulate their needs vociferously and also to explore innovative avenues to solve civic problems. the concept of NNPs augur great potential.

It was against this backdrop that the Public Affairs Centre, a non profit NGO based in Bangalore, conducted an exploratory study to highlight pertinent themes and dynamics associated with bringing out this relatively unknown medium. The paradigms for the study were defined by three concerns; Compiling a data base of existing NNPs in Bangalore; Analysing and highlighting the dynamics of bringing out an NNP with emphasis on the financial aspects and; Exploring the possibility of transforming this medium from a mere business venture to that of a potent voice.

The study emphasises the commercial viability of such ventures and also the growing demand of the community for more access to information on matters affecting their livelihoods. The larger question is to how to blend the demand and supply aspects to make NNPs potent platforms to voice, debate. advocate and address neighbourhood concerns.

Source: Public Affairs Center


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