Kolkata’s green crusaders give a second lease of life to trees uprooted by cyclone Amphan
Nearly three weeks after cyclone Amphan devastated Kolkata, city volunteers have come forward to save the trees uprooted by the natural disaster. Kolkata has lost a substantial portion of its green cover due to cyclone Amphan that struck West Bengal last month. Speaking at an official event on World Environment Day last week, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that more than 16000 trees have been destroyed in the city.
Uprooted trees strewn across localities in Kolkata have been a painful sight for residents.
“When I came out of my house the day after the cyclone, I saw trees lying everywhere, it was extremely painful as it felt like seeing green corpses. That is when we thought we must try to save some of them,” says Ajay Mittal of Active Citizens Together For Sustainability (ACTS).
At least 40 such fully grown uprooted trees have been successfully replanted by ACTS and Kolkata Clean Air -another volunteer group- in the Maidan area which is also known as ‘lungs of Kolkata’.
“To save damaged trees, we are applying fungicide and enzymes, after pruning the damaged parts. After treating the tree, we replant it in a pit with the help of industrial machines and cranes,” explains Vijay Agarwal of Kolkata Clean Air.
Damaged trees have been lying unattended for nearly three weeks since the cyclone, and work needs to be completed before they start decaying. It is indeed a race against time and activists say the challenges are many.
“We have not tried to plant the trees on the pavements yet due to complications of underground utilities. So we are replanting most of them inside parks and around the Maidan area,” Mittal says.
Meanwhile, the state government has undertaken a mega drive to plant 3.5 crore saplings at an estimated budget of Rs 100 crore. However, green activists say that replanting trees will have a better chance of survival than planting new saplings.
“Replanting one full-grown tree will have a better impact than planting a few hundred saplings. Experts say there are high chances of the trees surviving, so it’s a gamble worth taking,” explains Mittal.
Agarwal adds that mature trees require maintenance and periodic pruning in order to save them from getting uprooted during storms.
“It is a time-consuming process. A single tree takes 4-5 hours of work. But new saplings will take several years to mature. On the other hand, if these trees are restored properly, they will start growing within a few weeks,” he says.