Poor planning and emphasis on superficial beautification are blamed for the deteriorating health of the ancient banyan tree in Jyotisar under which Lord Krishna is believed to have delivered the sermon of Bhagwad Gita.
Experts from the Dehradun based Forest Research Institute (FRI), who have pre pared a broad restoration project, are awaiting nod from the Kurukshetra Development Board (KDB).
The site is the most visited place in this holy city.
Plant pathologist NSK Harsh told Hindustan Times on telephone from Dehradun that the marble floor around, meant for the convenience of visitors and beautification, was doing more harm than good to the tree.
He said that though the exact age of the existing tree was not known but studies confirmed it to be more than 200 years old.
“It is not that the tree is dying but it is facing suffocating conditions. Stone flooring around it has severely hampered the water absorption capacity of the tree. Besides, prop roots, which grow from the branches down to the ground, providing a plant with extra support, have no space due to large marble structure,” said the expert, who was instrumental in the restoration of Mahabodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
KDB had commissioned the FRI to study the health of the tree and suggest remedies, but due to litigation over the pilgrimage site between the KDB and panchaya to fJyotisar village, the project is being delayed.
Sources in the KDB said that work on the conservation of the ancient tree would be started soon, ensuring that no le g al provision was breached.
Meanwhile, Harsh suggested that all stakeholders including the local villagers should come together to give a new life to the tree through its restoration.
He said it was not advisable to remove the entire marble flooring around the tree taking into account the fact that it had survived under such conditions for long. “Tree would get energy if a marble platform raised around it is punctured to allow more air and water for its roots. Also, the scientific puncturing in the roots would give additional life to the ailing tree,” he said while adding that once work be gins more options could be explored for the project. According to the scientist, prop roots should be allowed to touch the g round and to ensure natural growth of the banyan tree. “Deep holes should be dug with protection grills around the prop roots to allow their natural growth”.
He said that the tree was a victim of religious practice of tying threads on hanging roots and branches, and unscientific maintenance. He is also against using the tree for the KDB’s light-and-sound show and putting net across it.
“Electrical equipment is nailed into the tree, disturbing its natural system. Apart from it, nets are used to prevent falling of leaves but it affects natural growth of branches. KDB should ensure that not even a single nail is put on it,” he said.