Among the things high-speed winds and heavy rains triggered by Cyclone Tauktae damaged in the city last week is a 50-year-old banyan tree, which was uprooted from its location on the Bandra 15th Road, off the famed Linking Road.
With the local conditions not allowing it to be fixed back to its original place, the tree that had tilted to its side could have been chopped off. However, thanks to efforts of locals, including a corporator, and a biodiversity conservation group, the tree found a new home just two kilometers away on the Bandra Promenade on Tuesday.
Uprooted from its base, the 40-ton tree had damaged a car, an iron gate and the window grille on the second floor of an adjacent building on May 18, when heavy rain and gusting winds lashed the city. Fearing that the tree might fall once again if replanted at the same location, the residents wanted it removed at the earliest.
“The location was not suitable. There was a pole running through the main trunk of the tree, its roots were entangled in stormwater and utility pipelines. The entire area around the roots was concretised. I fear it would have not survived at the same location,” said Marc Francis, a resident and the Mumbai-head of Hyderabad-based Vaata foundation.
Seeing that the tertiary roots of the tree were intact, Prekshaa Pahuja, a French tutor and Khar local, approached the foundation, which works on translocating trees, for help. The foundation assured that the tree could survive if replanted to another location. However, for this, the help of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was needed – not just to allow the tree to be moved using hydraulic machines but also to find a new location for it.
In five days since May 20, Francis secured a new location, arranged for labourers, and brought in machines. Pahuja worked with local corporator Swapna Mhatre and the BMC to ensure that the tree was not just saved but permission granted for its translocation.
At the Bandra Promenade, a 10-feet wide and five to seven feet deep area was dug to hold the tree. Meanwhile, after a four-hour operation on Monday, the tilted tree was clipped off and at least 20 ton of canopy and excess branches were removed. The exposed, ruptured parts on the tree trunk were sprayed with anti-fungal liquid to prevent it from being destroyed by termites, while it waited to be brought back to life.
Mhatre secured the BMC permission to block the road for two days, and finally, at 6.30pm on Tuesday, the main hulk of the banyan tree stood upright with the help of two cranes.
“In an ideal situation, we would have wanted to replant the tree at the same location and also as early as possible,” said Francis who transplanted three other trees in Goregaon and translocated another on an open ground. He is also working on replanting one more banyan tree, which was uprooted last week.
As for the Bandra Promenade banyan tree, he said, “The tree might still be in shock and needs to be nursed for the next few weeks.”