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Know about Baner Ber? This ‘Bora man’ is on a mission to save the tree from extinction in Pune

Puneites may not know or recognise the ‘ber’ tree, a type of Indian jujube, but they will know and recognise its wild fruit, known locally as the ‘bor’, or the ‘bora’. The tree is native to the Baner area of Pune specifically and Thete claims that from a tree count of one lakh a few years ago, “only 51 ber trees exist today”.

pune Updated: Feb 19, 2018 16:26 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Baner Ber,Bora man,tree from
Pravin Thete is trying to save the last of the baner ber gene pool by saving the fruit and seed in Pune on Saturday. (HT PHOTO)

The ‘ber’ tree is dying. One man, Nashik’s Pravin Thete, is fighting to keep it alive. The tree is native to the Baner area of Pune specifically and Thete claims that from a tree count of one lakh a few years ago, “only 51 ber trees, exist today”.”

Puneites may not know or recognise the ‘ber’ tree, a type of Indian jujube, but they will know and recognise its wild fruit, known locally as the ‘bor’, or the ‘bora’.

Marathi bor, Kharki bor, Khobri bor, Narali bor and Nadikathchi bor, are all varieties of the fruit once eaten wild off the trees in the area and sold on carts across the city.

Thete is now Pune’s ‘bora man’. He has been studying the fruit and the decline of the tree since 2014. Working as a field officer with the centre for environment education (CEE), Thete says, “A local farmer from Baner once got a handful for us to eat during a survey and began talking about how Baner was once known for its ‘bor’ and there was a huge demand for ‘Baner bor’ in markets across Pune and beyond on which the farmer’s livelihood depended.”

“Sadly then came the urbanisation and these trees were cut and are being lost in the concrete jungle,” Thete adds.

The loss of the tree species resonates with residents of the area.

Hamunant Murkute, an organic farmer from Baner, recalls doing brisk business from his Baner ber trees. “Every villager in Baner had at least 20 to 25 ber trees. I used to take a tempo full of bor, about 200 kg, to this market in Khadki where traders from Mumbai and Lonavla would come to an auction,” Murkute says.

“The quality of the bor was so good that I would get Rs 150 for 10 kg. Sadly, with the development, many farmers lost their land as well as the trees. Now the market for bor no longer exists.I have bought land in Velhe where I plan to plant many ber saplings,” Murkute adds.

So, what is the ‘save the ber tree’ plan?

Thete has collected seeds from the existing 54 trees and has prepared around 3,000 saplings at the government nursery near the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and also at a farm in Sus. He wants to be ready for the season, from November to January.

“There is only 0.1 per cent of the actual trees remaining. I am trying to save the gene pool of these Ber, for soon it will soon be lost. I feel that these trees grow best alongside the river boundary,” says Thete.

He has planted 60 saplings of the Baneri 'ber' along the Tekdi river for the last three years with the help of the Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan, a group dedicated to the conservation of the environment.

He also gives away saplings to those who are willing to help conserving them. “It needs money to make saplings, but I am willing to give away saplings if I feel that the person will take care of the plant,” he says.

Ayurvedic practitioner Vaidya Rahul Saraf from Aundh ays, “The ber is rich in vitamin C and used in ayurveda for treating bleeding disorders, excessive thirst and fever. Its seeds possess anti -cancer potential.”

First Published: Feb 19, 2018 16:25 IST