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250-year-old resident of Bengal under termite attack!

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Every morning, the first rays of the sun touch its spirited cells. New leaves are born and the tree gets fuller with each passing day.After the death of the giant and the oldest tortoise, Adwaita, at Alipore Zoo in Kolkata, it has almost been a decade that the Banyan Tree of Shibpur Botanical Gardens, is the oldest terrestrial living object. 

It has almost been a two-and-a half centuries, that the tree has been standing upright even after being hit by storms and cyclones. It remained unmoved. But now the tree is getting affected, gradually, by various diseases. Scientists are worried as the fungi and termites have attacked the old tree.This tree is also known as the ‘walking tree’and is under treatment and the scientists are giving their best to protect it and keep it alive but its age is a constraint.

Decades back, when the East India Company still did not flourish in this country, the British had an eye on the western bank of the Ganges in Howrah. Lt. Col. Robert Kyd built his personal garden in Shalimar and his proposal was accepted by the East India Company in 1787 and the decision of creating Botanical Garden was taken for its commercial benefits. The responsibility was given to the then Secretary of the Military Board of Fort William, Robert Kyd. The garden’s name was kept as ‘Dutch Company’s Garden’ but publicly it was called as the ‘Company’s Garden.’

In Kyd’s documentation, it has been mentioned that there grew a banyan tree engulfing a date tree. That banyan tree has crossed 250 years and has been featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. It has been crowned as the ‘Heritage Tree’ by the UNESCO, and is a living legend itself. According to the description of 1850, the tree had 89 hanging/prop roots and its circumference was 240 meters. In 2012, the hanging/prop roots had increased to 3562 and further to 3816 in 2015. The spread of fungi resulted in the elimination of the main tree trunk. It has been living on its prop/hanging roots thereafter. As per current records, the prop/hanging roots have crossed 4000 and the expansion is about 1.6 hectares or 5.5 acres.

It has been informed by the garden authorities, that the roots have degraded in the course of time. The cells have died because of its old age, thus, making it weaker. The fungi and the termites are add-ons. More than 25% of the roots have been attacked but it is a relief that the authorities are looking into this matter very seriously and working on it hard. A committee/ board has been formed with four scientists and they are keeping a regular check on each and every minute details of the tree and providing it with medicines as and when needed. Besides, a supervisory group is also on the stand by. Termites and fungi spread mainly during monsoons and winters, accordingly medicines are applied 3-4 times a year on the affected parts. To avoid the spread of fungi, an ointment called Blitox is made and layered on it. The ointment is composed of a chemical known as Chloropyritos.

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