In defence of trees

Nilratan Halder | Published: September 28, 2018 20:05:58

Love for tree is inherent in man. To see a sapling planted in one's hand to grow to maturity and, in case of a fruit tree, bearing fruit is to witness an experience similar to the growth of babies to children to adulthood. The indigenous people everywhere from the Santals in the sub-continent to the Red Indians in the United States of America have known the value of trees. It is not for nothing that they worship trees and have tree festivals to celebrate regeneration in line with the triumph of life.

In villages, tree lines, contrary to high-rises in cities, give the identity of a village. The clusters of greenery looks like a painting from a distance and the heart of a villager returning home after a hard day's labour or journey leaps in joy to see the particular tree marking his or her abode there. Almost every village has one or a few tall trees that form the skyline there and those come to the eyes from afar. Here is an assurance for a tired soul and feet that one must have to trudge along up to that point to be in the security of a house or hut. Thus a tree stands sentinel to a man's psychological uncertainty and tiredness. It provides the assurance that there is a place under the sky where a friend is waiting for his return every time he leaves the village.

How painful the felling of such a vanguard tree can be to a child of sensitivity cannot be fathomed by the grown-ups who only view a tree as a commercial object. When it concerns thousands of 150-year old trees which have witnessed the birth pang of this nation, there is a need to be particularly cautious about treating with those mute spectators. Or, who knows the trees have languages insensitive man fails to read! Thank God, the trees on Jessore Road are going to be spared, at last. The proposed road expansion will be done without harming the trees. All who campaigned for saving the trees deserve special thanks for their effort. Also the authorities who came to see the merit of saving the trees deserve to be eulogised for not sticking to their original decision of felling the trees. 

In this connection let it be remembered that Jessore Road has carved a niche in people's minds not only in Bangladesh and India but also far beyond, courtesy of American poet Allen Ginsberg. It was Ginsberg's famous poem September on Jessore Road composed on the plight of the Bangladesh refugees streaming endlessly in to India in 1971 that has not only expressed the deepest love for the wretched humanity but also immortalised the road built by a zaminder named Kaliprasanna Roy. Ginsberg's friend Bob Dylan gave a musical form to the poem and sang at the Concert for Bangladesh. Thus the world became aware of the genocide committed by the Pakistani army in East Pakistan of that time. Evidently, the Jessore Road is part of the country's history of the Liberation War. Many treasure the memory of their journey on the road and their life under the open sky on that road during those tumultuous days. When dealing with such a sacred history, one has to be humble and submissive.

It is heartening that the road will get expanded but without harming the trees. This will act as an example for others to emulate everywhere when trees stand to be the likely casualties on account of development. But sadly, not everywhere the sensitivity is as sharp as it was in case of Jessore Road. Hundreds of trees have been felled on the segment of the Dhaka-Mymensingh Road from airport bus stand up to Jasimuddin turn. This was, it is claimed, necessitated for the project of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Was there no alternative to this?

Similarly, hundreds of trees have been felled on both sides of the road in between Dhirashram level crossing and Tongi. There are people who feel a sadistic pleasure to fell trees because here is an opportunity for lining their pockets. Dhaka city has mostly become barren in this process. Its inhabitants are paying heavily for this mindless mayhem. The city is hotter than its suburbs and areas beyond. Even pockets in the city boasting modest tree covers are cooler and anyone can feel the difference. Destroying trees needlessly is no less a crime than annihilating your friends.

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