NH-163 widening: 900 Chevella banyan trees face threat

Hyderabad: This could well be the last stand for around 900 banyan trees, most of them 100 years or older, lining the stretch of National Highway 163 from Moinabad to Manneguda, as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) moves forward with its plan to double its width from the existing two to four lanes.

Environmental groups are concerned that all these trees will be axed and the city's last stretch of road with old banyans providing a canopy to travellers will be at thing of the past.

It may be recalled that local environmental groups have been battling for two years to save the banyan trees. The widening of the road is planned from the APPA Junction in Ranga Reddy district.

"These trees are the last of their kind that used to line all the highways leading into the city. Such trees have disappeared from all the other roads," P Uday Krishna, from the Vata Foundation, which works to save trees, said.

"These 900-odd banyan trees should be revived, either by part diversion of the highway where there are sharp bends, and translocated where needed. The pruned good branches can be propagated into new trees, he added.

"The 'Chevella banyans' can be used to bring back banyan trees along the highways where we had them in the past. This is an opportunity for the state government to do something, and set a huge example for the rest of the country," Uday Krishna said.

Forest department officials said that the NH expansion project was subject to translocation of the trees, while those asking the government to save the trees fear that the road expansion will take primacy over environmental concerns.

According to Sadhana Ramchander from the group, Nature Lovers of Hyderabad, banyan trees are not just shade giving but each tree is an entire ecosystem by itself. The government should save the trees. Translocation is not an option for these huge banyans, and they would not survive."


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