This almost 'three centuries old' banyan tree could have been a proud showcase for the national Capital’s natural heritage, similar to the 250-year-old Great Banyan Tree at Kolkata's Botanical Garden.
However, thanks to apathy of the government agencies concerned and negligence by the local community, the banyan tree at the T-junction of Tughlaqabad village road and Mehrauli Badarpur road, stands in a pitiable condition today with a poor canopy and diseased trunk.
Selling helmets besides this tree, Dharam Pal, a Tughlaqabad villager, recalled, "My grandfather used to tell me the canopy was twice bigger." The tree's girth is 28 feet 7 inches, an indication of the age of the tree.
Road agency, the Public Works Department (PWD) has choked it with paved tiles leaving hardly any space for aeration of roots.
The tiles were placed ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The tree hardly has any hanging aerial roots, characteristic of banyan trees.
Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, a former MLA from Tughlaqabad, said, "We used to play on and around the hanging aerial roots of this tree. These vanished when the present road was widened."
"I wrote to several agencies about its poor condition but no one paid any attention,” pointed out Shikharchand Jain, a property dealer.
According to Subhash Chandra, former director (horticulture) of New Delhi Municipal Council, "The tree is deprived of nutrition support and nourishment from the soil due to paving."
PWD's Sudhir Kumar agreed, "There are guidelines that needs to be followed about leaving breathing space for trees. We will look into the matter." He, however, blamed the forest department for the poor health of the tree.
"Our concern permission for pruning or tree cutting, when sought. Health of the tree is entirely their (PWD's) responsibility," said DM Shukla, chief conservator of forests.
Ajay Mahajan of NGO Kalpavriksha, suggested, "Tiles around the tree trunk need to be removed. Neem oil cakes and neem oil spray can be used to treat termites and other pests."