The incessant rains this July have indeed thrown our normal lives out of gear; and sadly, it is also taking a toll on many old trees. There are various reported cases of trees, especially banyan trees, getting uprooted and causing a lot of damage in the bargain.
This is probably due to the digging of mud around the tree, which ends up loosening the soil, and thus, during the rains, the tree can’t withstand the excess water and falls down.
Similar is the case of two giant rain trees (Albizia saman) in Campal, along Panjim’s DB Road, which came crashing down, recently. It was a sad sight to see these massive trees – which are in many ways, the identity of Campal – coming down.
According to landscape designer and bonsai artist, Daniel D’Souza, it is because of water logging and loosening of soil around its roots. He says, “A couple of months back, the Campal footpath was dug with a JCB machine instead of manually, this made the soil loose. Also, now the height of the road is high, so all the water got accumulated and thus hampered its root system.”
Daniel has worked extensively with the CCP (Corporation of the City of Panaji) in the past, and has designed Panjim’s many green spaces. Thus, he was approached by the Mayor, Rohit Monseratte, to work on reviving these trees. He is now working to revive one tree.
Working to make the tree stand like before will be a Herculean task.
“I will require a crane, some other machinery and will also have to stop the traffic. But, it can be done. Also, I may have to relocate the tree to a place where there is no accumulation of water, but, on DB Road itself as this place is known for these trees,” says Daniel.
When asked, CCP officials confirmed that they are working on reviving at least one tree in the coming week.
RAIN TREES, SOME BACKGROUND
The rain trees of Campal are around 100-years-old. They were planted during the Portuguese rule by the then Mayor of the city, Dr Froilano de Mello, probably from the 1940s to 1950s. From then on, they have stuck with Panjim’s identity.
Rain trees are ideal avenue trees because of their ability to keep their symmetrical conformation in spite of strong prevailing winds. And, that’s one of the main reasons why they were planted in Campal.
Daniel informs, “These trees were planted to break down the velocity of the winds coming from the mouth of the Arabian Sea, which is just a few hundred meters away.”
The rain tree is easily identified by its umbrella-like canopy which has feathery foliage and pink puff flowers.
As this tree is so common, especially in Goa, it is sometimes assumed that it is a native species. However, it came from Central America to Sri Lanka and then to India to use as railway fuel!
One may wonder why it is called a ‘rain’ tree? There are some interesting reasons behind this — the leaves of this tree are sensitive to light, so they fold up at night or when it begins to rain.
Also sometimes, one may experience a rain of mist under this tree, which is a discharge of a few insects residing in this tree.
These trees also represent the love Panjimites have for them. The best example of this is the citizen protest in 2002, when Panjimites came on the road to protest against the felling of these massive rain trees for road widening purposes.
Due to this, the plan was shelved and it also made citizens vigilant to watch out for these trees.
Now, once again, it is time to show some love for these, and all other trees, and work together towards their conservation.