Hyderabad: Pandemic and lockdown notwithstanding, Hyderabad-based Vata Foundation has saved 465 fully-grown trees in 2020. Around 400 trees were saved at Uppal as Vata Foundation moved the court forcing the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Authorities to step felling.
"The PIL brought a lot of pressure on the government. The court directed the municipal body to ensure the trees are not axed, thus saving 400 of them at Uppal. Secondly, 18 trees from the old secretariat building were trans-located despite less coordination from the authorities. Two huge neem trees from Sircilla district's government school got a new home and we later saved 8 more. The last task was to save 33 of them at Nallagandla- Tellapur road and four at Malaysian township," said Uday Krishna, Founder of Vata Foundation.
However, Uday, who tested positive for COVID, could not take up two critical tasks to translocate trees at the Botanical Garden, which are marked for road widening.
With the introduction of road widening, flyovers, underpasses, Metro Rail, Hyderabad is slowly losing its urban greenery. These concrete structures have completely destroyed the existing fully grown trees.
Uday Krishna, Jyothi Konda, and Sumesha Reddy, who hail from different professional backgrounds, believe in taking care of the trees. Even during the lockdown, Vata Foundation managed to save 455 trees in Telangana and one in Goa. "If you cut a tree, you kill a life. If you save a tree, you save a life. If you plant a tree, you plant a life," seems to be the anthem of Vata Foundation, which has saved 465 trees in 2020.
What is Vata foundation?
Founded in 2015, Vata foundation is a totally volunteer-based organization headed by Jyothi Konda, Sumesha Reddy, and Uday Krishna.
Vata foundation was widely recognized and appreciated when they saved 16 trees that were marked for felling at KPHB. "It was the monsoon of 2017; I was working on a project when I came to know that 16 trees have been marked for felling. I Identified a lane close by and requested the house owners if they were willing to look after the trees, they agreed. All 16 were translocated to the lane at my cost of which 13 survived. The second task was to save a line of trees marked for felling at the Forum Mall at Kukatpally. I approached the department and translocated it for free of cost" Uday recalled.
Vata Foundation offers services free of cost to GHMC to help revive fallen trees. "We do not have any idea as to why simple permissions can't be issued to save fully grown trees. One only wonders why this is so. Could it be because of meeting THH Targets? More opportunity to plant saplings the better it is. Fully grown trees don't need any budget. Whereas a sapling needs a tree guard, watering, fertilizer. So to summarize saplings needs a budget whereas the fully grown tree needs no budget. The only way it can make money is with the wood… is that reason why trees that can be saved are quickly chopped up", Uday said.
How do they work?
Vata foundation, thanks to its social media presence, receives inputs from volunteers. Besides, they generate information from the ground. The team conducts a reconnaissance before translocating the trees.
They check if the area falls under the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation or National Highway Authority of India, in order to approach the concerned authorities.
Cost of translocation?
The task depends on the size, shape, and variety of the tree. The cost may vary from Rs 3000 to Rs 3 lakh. However, the foundation requests the concerned department for certain machinery. The foundation is self or crowdfunded and has kept away from corporate social responsibility funds.
Reviving fallen trees: Vata has gone to great lengths to revive fallen trees. We see this as a perfect way to spread awareness. Two such occasions:
1. Nagarkurnool: during a pre-monsoon thunder shower a Junglee Jilebi tree had fallen down in a Government School in Nagarkurnool. The tree did not dry up since some roots were still in the ground (the case with almost all fallen trees) the Principal had protected the tree from being chopped down as this was the only useful tree on the campus. After a wait of 2 months she had read about us in the newspapers and called us requesting to help revive the tree. We gladly obliged and revived the tree in front of 400 kids.
2. Goa Banyan: a 100+ yr old Banyan had fallen during the 2020 monsoon showers in Arambol, a remote corner of Goa. The location was very remote and wasn't accessible for any heavy equipment. We were asked to help revive this tree that too during Covid times. Uday went with a team of heavy equipment handlers and could revive the banyan using only a 200 Poclain. It took 2 days and also resulted in Uday becoming infected with Covid during that trip. However, the positive side is that the news spread across the globe and the awareness went along!!
Trees in Hyderabad fall for many reasons apart from monsoons
1. Uneven trimming by Electrical Department is one main reason why trees fall. Trees lose balance due to a lack of planning in pruning.
2. Traffic also sometimes ends up destabilizing trees. The branches coming onto the road are trimmed while the opposite side branches are left intact (KPHB 4 trees Case). This results in the trees falling down.