It was one collective heave for a giant peepal tree. A group of people in Maranchery, a nondescript village near Ponnani, Malappuram, Kerala, came together to transplant an about-to-be axed peepal tree.
They had christened it Mission Bodhi. The seeds of the thought for a transplant sprouted in some people in Maranchery as road-widening posed a threat to a couple of avenue and shade trees.
Support poured in from all corners and social media platforms were awash with posts in support of saving the 40-year-old peepal tree.
Mission Bodhi, through public funding, mopped up Rs 86,000, the amount needed for the safe uproot, transport, and transplant of the tree. Bodhi sources said the effort was as much a green mission as it was an experiment in sustainable development. They said the focus could be on developing amenities like roads with minimal damage to trees and the supporting ecology.
The peepal tree was the only shade tree at Maranchery centre (formerly Thanneerpandal market) and old-timers said it had been a presence for at least 40 years. But, the uprooting of the tree had become 'inevitable' to undertake the renovation and widening of the Kundukadavu-Kottappadi road. Mission Bohi managed to enlist the support of people like Aneesh Nellickal, one experienced in tree transplant.
On May 14, a Sunday, the process started at 6 pm. Hundreds of people, mainly residents, joined the operation and helped out Aneesh and his workers. The tree, with the phalanx of its main tap and prop root intact, was loaded onto a trailer truck brought from Kochi. It took nearly two hours to shift the 20-tonne tree to an under-construction heritage museum in Ponnani, 11km from Maranchery.
The branches of the tree were trimmed and the trunk was treated to prevent water loss. For easy habitat adaption, soil from the area was also collected to be deposited at the tree's new turf. The whole process got over by 3 pm the next day. Mission Bodhi workers and residents take turns to tend to the tree till the roots run deep, new branches sprout, and the canopy widens.
Aneesh Nellickal said the whole process was to be performed like a prayer, where the tree had to be handled carefully – right from pruning of the branches to the treating of the new soil to clear bugs and germs.
“Every process is important. This is the second giant tree I am transplanting. Clearing the path for the vehicle that carries the tree is also equally important. The traffic has to be controlled. Hanging electric lines could pose a threat. Even after the transplant, the tree needs adequate care,' Aneesh, who runs Nellickal nursery in Veliyankode, says.
He said the new tree was capable of living a thousand years.
The people who took part in Mission Bodhi said once the project became successful, they could present it to the state government as a proposal. This could be replicated where extensive felling was required for road widening or other development projects, they said. Another proposal was to allow willing individuals to adopt and transplant trees.
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