New home, new life for old trees

An innovative method to preserve green cover

Equipment to transplant tree marked for fellingto make way for development projects .
 Tree being shifted for transplantation. (right) The tree being transplanted at another location.

A fully-grown neem tree at Mahatma Mandir near Gandhinagar highway was posing a problem for traffic and the officials concerned were wracking their brains to deal with it. 

The simple option before them was to chop the tree as in most cases
authorities do. In this instance, they did not order axe and saw to bring down the tree as they realised the tree would survive for a few more years. Also, the residents, with environmentalists in tow, were opposed to cutting the tree. They vehemently
contended that more saplings in place of the neem tree would not be a substitute.

A brain-storming session followed and the result was to go in for much-reliable and eco-friendly tree transplantation. Those involved in the project got into work. First the soil testing was done and it was matched with the soil where the tree was to be transplanted—almost akin to human organ transplant. In human organ transplant, different organs are harvested from the brain-dead people and given to different people. Here, the entire tree is transplanted from one place to another.

Gujarat has many firsts to its credit in terms of the development. Officials were lucky as equipment was readily available. The tree transplanter is the first such machine in the country and it was imported by the state-run Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) as a part of the social responsibility by a corporate sector. The machine was purchased after realising that for development work trees needed to be felled. And felling grown up trees could prove costly and affect the environment. 

Though planting of saplings was a ready-made solution offered by the authorities, they need care to survive and would take years to grow into trees.

Employing this machine, the forest department has already transplanted 1,250 trees in Gandhinagar and 100-odd trees in Ahmedabad. Forest officials claim that the survival rate was 88 per cent, a highly encouraging figure.

As this machine was being used in the country for the first time, training sessions were held at various levels in the forest department at Pandit Deen Dayal Petroleum University.

They were taught about various technical details and how to carry out minor repairs, if need arose.

“It was realised that for development work, trees were being cut as more space was needed. Then, it was decided to import the equipment as many countries have already adopted the procedure,’’ said

District Forest officer Bhavin Vyas. The tree transplanters were extensively used in countries like Japan, America and Singapore. The treeplanter is capable of transplanting five to ten trees in a day.

“The technical sessions on the operation of the machine was useful because the officials were not exposed to this kind of a concept in the state,’’ pointed out Vyas. As the machine was successfully used in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar extensively, requests for it came from other parts of the state, where road widening work were progressing.

Soil testing

The work of transplantation begins with the identification of tree that needs to be removed and where it should be relocated. An exercise of soil testing is done to verify whether the tree which would be removed would survive in the new location.

“It is similar to the procedure that a doctor conducts on a patient undergoing organ transplantation. There a blood matching is done before carrying out the transplantation. Here, soil test is conducted before removing the tree.

Only after finding ideal soil conditions, the tree is removed and transplanted,’’ said Vyas.

The first experiment with the tree transplantation began at the Mahatma Mandir near Gandhinagar--the venue chosen by Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his Vibrant Gujarat summit. As many as 700 trees were removed and then shifted to Gandhinagar. “These trees which have been transplanted are now growing like they did in their original place,’’ said Vyas.

Apart from Gandhinagar, the transplanter has also been used to pave way for the bus rapid transport system in Ahmedabad. These trees have been transplanted on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Environmentalists have given kudos to the project.

They point out that it was a much better way of restoring rather than felling. “It is indeed a good step if they are able to restore the trees. It is better than felling them,’’ said Mahesh Pandya of Paryavaran Mitra.

He said that it was a good step and concluded with a rider that it was too early to predict whether the trees would survive for long. One can safely say that for now it is a success, admitted Pandya.

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