'Sacred' trees help City preserve its once green heritage

'Sacred' trees help City preserve its once green heritage

'Sacred' trees help City preserve its once green heritage

Thanks to the sacred status with which citizens hold some trees, the once Garden City has not lost its green cover in entirety and still presents vestiges of its glorious past.

In fact, trees such as neem, peepal, champak, untouched by the skewed ‘development’ syndrome that has steadily denuded the City’s once extolled verdant heritage, have been enriching Bangalore’s green spaces and biodiversity.  

Being immensely valued and protected, these trees, says a study ‘Sacred Trees In the Urban Landscape of Bangalore’, by a team of ecologists, are deeply etched in cultural and spiritual ethos of society.

The survey, undertaken in old areas such as Doddapet, Nagaratpet, Basavanagudi and Gavipuram, and semi-old areas such as Koramangala, Madiwala and Domlur and new extensions like Electronics City, found that 67 per cent of them are protected by local community, temples or ashwath kattes, while 31 per cent escaped the developer’s axe as government or temple trusts ensured their safety, with only 2 per cent remaining unprotected. 

A sample size of 200 trees, in a radius of half a km in each area, was taken. Of the 24 species, five main sacred species: neem, peepal, banni, champak and coconut trees were found at 44 locations with 97 per cent belonging to native species. 

The sacred trees, the study notes, provide excellent examples of culturally protected ecosystems which include trees within temples sites, heritage sites or ashwath kattes.Sacred figs, neem, coconut trees (Cocos nucifera), banyan (Ficus benghalensis), Indian blackberry (Syzygium cumini), Banni (Prosopis cineraria) and Bael (Aegle marmelos) are common sacred tree species found in Bangalore.

There are examples of culturally protected trees at Christian, Muslim and Buddhist sites of worship, including tree cover on burial sites, and mango trees (Mangifera indica).

The study, conducted between July and September 2012 and published in the July 2014 issue of environment journal ‘Current Conservation’, was done by ecologists Harini Nagendra, Divya Gopal and Maria Tengo.

The study notes that Doddapet and Nagaratpet, that are part of 16th century Bangalore and boast of both commercial and inter-laid residential layouts, despite rapid urbanisation, are home to many scared trees predominantly sacred figs (Ficus religiosa) that form tiny islands of greenery in highly built-up environment.

Despite the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act (1976), the City, which has witnessed indiscriminate felling of trees to accommodate large-scale infrastructure development projects, has, however, seen these sacred ecosystems/sites show great resilience to pressures of urbanisation, surviving rampant instances of urban deforestation. 

With few parks and tree-lined avenues, birds, insects and mammals such as squirrels, monkeys, are left with tiny fragments of greenery to set up roost and survive.