A 300-year-old tree in Delhi might be getting a new shot at life after a city court on Thursday deemed it a 'heritage' tree and pulled up those who had allowed construction around the ancient tree.
Located in Chandni Chowk, the banyan tree is said to have been planted in the 17th century by a local merchant. The tree also gave the surrounding neighborhood its name - Kothi Barwali - which translates to "house around the banyan tree".
While the tree is said to have been the locus of economic and cultural activity in its prime, ill-planned construction work has led to the clipping of its external roots, hemming in of the trunks, and considerable damage to its once majestic canopy, The Hindustan Times reported.
While no official documentation regarding the age of the tree has so far been found, locals believe it existed even before the British came to India.
Based on a petition filed by a local resident in favour of defending the tree, Delhi High court's Justice Waziri issued action against the builders and officials responsible for the construction while expressing shock about the condition of the tree.
"How could you do that to a 300-year-old tree?" a shocked Waziri asked the defendants.
The court also pulled up the Delhi government and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation to ensure the tree's protection.
Delhi is home to a wide variety of trees, many of whom are over a century old. In 2016, the Delhi government recognized 16 trees as part of its natural heritage.
In 2018, the NDMC said it will start to track Delhi's "vintage" trees in order to keep track of them. But much of these efforts have been focused in maintaining the green cover in central Delhi, even as other parts may remain neglected.
Earlier in the year, the Uttar Pradesh government declared that trees older than 100 years were heritage trees that needed to be conserved. As per a report in The Times of India, it ordered all states to prepare exhaustive lists of trees to aid in conservation.