Close to 5,000 trees that were partially uprooted by Cyclone Amphan in Calcutta have been restored, civic officials and members of NGOs who took part in the restoration, have said.
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has restored trees on the footpath along Southern Avenue and Pratapaditya Road near Rashbehari, in Ekdalia, Naktala and Chetla, a CMC official said on Thursday.
A group named Rebuild Bengal restored several trees in the Maidan area. At least 111 trees have been restored on the Rabindra Sarobar premises by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA). Work is underway to save 40 trees on the Subhas Sarobar premises.
The Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology in Shibpur straightened 27 trees on its campus. Former students of Jadavpur University have helped restore several trees on the campus.
In New Town, the Hidco authorities and the forest department restored 3,738 trees of the 4,600 that had been damaged in cyclone. The restored trees are being checked regularly, a forest department official said.
This is probably the first time there’s been a concerted effort to save partially uprooted trees, according to naturalists. The authorities seem to have felt that loss of green cover can have severe consequences, they said.
Several trees get partially uprooted in storms in Calcutta every year. There has never been any collective effort to identify and restore such trees except for a few instances. “Every year, we see civic authorities busy chopping fallen trees. In fact, it is easier to restore trees when a few get partially uprooted… this time so many trees had fallen, but the authorities showed their intent to save as many as they could… it is a welcome sign,” a botanist said.
Arjan Basu Roy, a naturalist who worked in the restoration of some of the trees, said not all uprooted trees were in a position to be restored. “A tree whose roots are severely damaged or a tree whose trunk has cracked near the ground cannot be restored. Besides, trees that did not get any water from above after its roots came off the soil cannot be restored.”
Another naturalist said tree restoration meant putting back a grounded tree back to its feet after trimming its branches and treating its wounds.
“A 20-year-old or a 30-year-old tree will grow a lot of leaves and branches in a short time. But if all uprooted trees are chopped and replaced with saplings, the green cover will take decades to be restored. This is why tree restoration is necessary to prevent the loss of green,” the naturalist said.
The CMC has planned to plant trees, aged between three and 10, across the city to compensate for the loss of green cover because of the cyclone. Such trees will grow leaves faster than a sapling and some of the lost green cover can be recovered faster than a sapling, a civic official said.
Restoring a tree on a footpath along a road, especially in an unplanned and congested city like Calcutta, is a challenge because of overhead wires, concrete walkways and hawker stalls. None of these can be damaged during restoration, the civic official said.
In comparison, it is easier to restore trees inside parks with no human movement, especially now that parks are shut because of pandemic. In New Town’s Eco Park, close to 80 per cent of the 450 partially uprooted trees have been restored, a Hidco official said.
There have been past instances of restoring partially uprooted trees inside parks but trying to save a tree on a footpath along a busy road is rare, if not unprecedented, another civic official said.
The restoration of close to 5,000 trees this time could set an example and the city will benefit if it becomes a practice, the official said. “Calcutta’s footpaths are blocked by hawkers. Besides, there is no proper plan to maintain trees, which is why this initiative to restore partially uprooted trees can set off a practice of caring for trees,” the official said.