Hyderabad: It was an evening of protest and poetry under one of the banyan trees on the Chevella Road. On the evening of 12 December, a group of poets, poetry lovers, and nature lovers shared poetry in Urdu, Telugu, Hindi, and English with the audience enjoying every word of the recitation.
This was their way of showing solidarity with the trees, and to protest the felling of the trees for a highway expansion project. Over a thousand banyans that line the National Highway (NH-163) from Hyderabad to Manneguda, 45 km away, are under the threat of felling because of a proposed four-laning project by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). These banyans were planted by the Nizam nearly 100 years ago.
In total, nearly 9,000 trees are at risk. This also includes the last remaining scrub forests of Mudimyal and Kandlapally – home to many grassland species, including the migrating Harriers and the rare Tawny Eagles listed as 'vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List.
The event began with nature lover Kobita Dass Kolli talking about the Save the Banyans Campaign and stressing on the importance of old ecosystems. After this, the moderator, Dr. Amir Ullah Khan (economist and professor), took over and read a few touching poems by Faiz. "Is tarah hai ke har ek ped koi mandir hai" touched many hearts.
This was followed by sessions by poets/poetry readers. Girender sang a meaningful Telugu song likening a tree to a mother; Natasha Ramarathnam read out her poem from the perspective of a teenage girl from an Adivasi community; young poet Ananya Sanghameshwar read her poem which was an ode to a tree, followed by one spoken by mother Earth.
Sadhana Ramchander spoke about the compassionate Telugu poem "Pushpa Vilapam" by Jandhyala Papaiah Shastry and sung soulfully by Ghatasala. Sudha Nair read out an old favourite "Pushp ki Abhilasha" by Makhanlal Chaturvedi. Mohit 'Ojhal', a poet and ghazal writer, read out his poems including "Kat gaya hai hamara jungle" to much applause.
Asiya Khan read out Anand Vishwanadha's poem on the banyans of Chevella and "Trees of Cubbon Park" sent by Priyanka Sacheti and another on the banyans by Ira Vangipurapu. Well-known producer Elahe Hiptoola read one by Faiz and also sang "Yeh hosla kaise jhuke" – a very appropriate song for the Chevella banyans campaign.
The initiative of the Nature Lovers of Hyderabad is about protecting the legacy of tree culture. These trees are over 100 years old and were planted when Osmansagar and Himayatnagar were being built. The group said they would like to explore with the government ways of handling the issues that concern the people of Telangana and find better ways to balance development needs and save the natural heritage.