Nearly 20 heritage jamun trees may be uprooted in Central Vista revamp

Many of the valuable trees, including 20 jamun trees, may be removed as part of the Central Vista Avenue reconstruction program from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate and will be planted and relocated, officials said on Thursday.

Residents and activists have been sharing photos on social media about the Rajpath building dug over the loss of jamun trees.

A spokesperson for the Central Department of Public Works said that they started work after the necessary permits and that no tree will be cut down… the affected trees must be relocated.

The chief executive officer of the Department of Environment and Forestry in Delhi said permission had been given to CPWD to plant a total of 400 trees for Parliament’s new project. This includes some jamun and neem trees on Raisina Road and Red Cross Road for almost a century.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said that there are about 20-22 old juniper seeds on Raisina Road that are said to have been planted in the 1920s and were part of Edwin Lutyens’ original design of Lutyens ’Delhi. These trees are about 100 years old and they may not survive the transplant.

Nearly 20 heritage jamun trees may be uprooted in Central Vista revamp
Nearly 20 heritage jamun trees may be uprooted in Central Vista revamp

The Activists said the environmental impact of redevelopment work that was done on Rajpath has still not been assessed. The environment clearance for the new Parliament building was issued back in June 2020 while the one for a common central secretariat and for the Central Conference Centre along with the residence of Prime Minister has been recommended by the environment ministry on 13th April. As per the minutes of the expert appraisal committee that was held on April 13, nearly a total of 3,230 trees are to be transplanted from the site while only 1,412 will be retained.

Kanchi Kohli who is a legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research said that the central vista project has been broken into different components which also includes the new parliament, central vista avenue and a consolidated proposal including the common central secretariat buildings such as the residence of the Prime Minister’s residence and the Vice President’s estate.

Jamun trees near Rajpath have special significance for bird lovers and nature lovers in the city. Twice a year there are complaints from Rosy Starlings about these jam trees, and beyond India Gate.

Nikhil Devasar, founder of the Delhi Bird said that twice a year they see Rosy Starlings complaining about these jam trees before they go to bed at night. They also see hundreds of them dancing in the sky forming different forms through the Indian Gate. These trees also serve as a refuge for parakeets in the city. In the morning they are seen flying to other green spaces like IIT or Green Park and in the evening you see them returning to India Gate.

UK Wildlife Trust, describing star-studded sighs said that the stars are now in the center of the earth, with one of the most spectacular natural wonders. Herds come in from all directions, flocking to the sky above their habitats. As the numbers reach tens of thousands, the complaints take a dramatic turn in the sky, enter into contracts and multiply as one herd joins the other, and then the lives on their own.

Officials from the Department of Forestry in Delhi said they had no information on the logging or replanting of trees for the Central Vista project.

When the first applications for permission to cut and plant trees for the Central Vista project were submitted before the southern section of the Delhi Forest Department, on April 24 the administrative capacity was drawn up and the project site was handed over to the western section.

The Department of Forestry’s chief executive officer said that since the official handover, no new application for a permit for the Central Vista project has reached the western level.

Experts have suggested that the replanting of these precious trees is similar to the felling of trees because most of them could not possibly survive this “tragedy”.

CR Babu, a professor from the Center for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem, at Delhi University, said that although it is easier for small and low-water species to survive in transplantation, because trees with deep roots like jamun are less likely to survive. Babu said that a jam tree under 20 years of age can survive and thrive. But when they are over 50 years old their roots tend to get deeper into the ground. This makes it difficult to dig up the roots without damaging the roots. Even if they survive, these will not thrive or do any natural activities, so it is equivalent to death.

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