The Financial Express

Felling trees for a cause!

| Updated: May 11, 2021 21:39:54

Felling trees for a cause!

How much oxygen does a tree produce? A study says, a mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year.

On average, one tree makes 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can produce enough oxygen for a family of four.

How much life-giving oxygen the three recently felled Gogonsirish (Albizia richardiana), also, popularly known as Rajkoroi or BahariKoroi trees, of Suhrawardy Udyan could make?  Unfortunately, those trees including an unknown number of other large and small trees have also been victims of our utter callousness and insensitivity towards nature. In fact, these trees protect us from the fallouts of climate change. Most importantly, they supply the vital oxygen we breathe free of cost. The Suhrawardy Udyan, where these trees stood, is an oasis of peace and tranquillity amid the concrete jungle called the capital city Dhaka. The cut down Gogonsirish trees were rather large ones (30-40 metres high).But there were also other trees that were cut on different occasions. Why? Because the Swadhinata Stambha (Independence Monument) has to be built there to commemorate the historical events that took place at the Suhrawardy Udyan at the end of the Liberation War.

There is no denying the importance of the SahrawardyUdyan that witnessed historical events linked to our War of Independence.We must commemorate those.When the Pak army conceded defeat, the woodland now called Suhrawardy Udyan was actually a large vacant piece of land enclosed by a wooden fence. It was then known as the Race Course.  It is here that the vanquished occupation army of Pakistan signed the instrument of surrender on December 16, 1971 to the allied forces command. Called the victory Day, it is unquestionably a day of great national pride.

A boat-shaped raised platform, Indira Mancha, was also set up on the then-Race Course ground. Then-Indian Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, who went all-out to support our Liberation War, spoke to the Bengali people from that platform.Undeniably, those events have gone down as landmarks in our glorious Liberation War history. However, things have changed meanwhile. The stretch of vacant land of the past called the Race Course is now a cool retreat from the urban blight.  It now cradles a luxuriant forest. Can one have the heart to destroy such a vista of sylvan charm, even for a cause so overriding as the Independence Monument? There must be some alternative ways to do the job without cutting down the trees.

In that case, the entire idea of building the Swadhinata Stambha has to be reimagined. The very idea of implementing a project suitable for an empty piece of land within a wooded setting is totally counterintuitive. Had the authorities concerned shared their ideas with the public as well as the pro-environment groups including architects, they would be flooded with innovative ideas. But the bureaucrats at the public works department have no to time to think. They went for turning the SwadhinataStambha project into a commercial one. Hence is the programme of erecting concrete structures like public toilets, walkways, food courts, artificial ponds, underground parking lots, underpasses, religious shrines- you name it, you have it there. Does not the very idea of turning our IndependenceMonument into a purely a money-earning project sound crass, something that leaves a bad taste in one's mouth?

However, the Liberation War Affairs ministry, looking after the building of the SwadhinataStambha project, tried to assuage the public piqued by the report of felling trees to build the Independence Monument. It assured us that 1,000 new trees would be planted at the spot where old trees were cut down at the Suhrawardy Udyan. Happy?

Well, but how long would those saplings to be planted take to grow into trees matching the size of the felled Gogonsirish trees? We will have to wait, maybe for decades. But the time lost can never be restored. 


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