Still standing: 400-year-old banyan tree in Sangli escapes the axe
File Photo

In news that should be a welcome development for all environmentalists, a 400-year-old banyan tree in Sangli has escaped the axe of development. Located right in the middle of a new highway under construction in the district, it will continue to remain rooted to the spot and the highway it is that will be rerouted.

In response to the letter by Maharashtra Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, a team from the National Highway Authority of India visited the site on Wednesday evening and decided to change the road alignment so that the tree wouldn't have to be cut. The Free Press Journal broke the story three days ago.

Aaditya confirmed the NHAI’s decision through a tweet. He said, ‘’I have been informed that the NHAI has visited the 400 year old Banyan tree in Sangli and has begun reworking on the realignment of the highway so as to save the tree. I am truly thankful to Union Minister @nitin_gadkari ji for positively responding to my request on this.’’

‘’More than anything, I am also extremely grateful to all those who brought this to notice and were persistent about saving it. A realigned highway, a 400 year old Heritage tree saved feels delightful,’’ he noted.

As reported by The Free Journal Press Journal, Aaditya had brought to Gadkari’s notice that the ancient tree was situated in front of Yelamma temple on the Miraj-Pandharpur highway in the Sangli district. "The tree is a treasure and home to bats and other species,’’ he had written in his letter.

‘’The Miraj subdivisional officer had said in his report that this ancient tree would have to be cut because of the construction of National Highway 166. Or an alternative spot would have to be sought for the highway, bypassing this location,’’ Aaditya had said in his letter. He had also thanked Gadkari for the construction of National Highway 166 as it would hugely benefit farmers and the local population.

However, he had pleaded that the protection of a heritage tree was equally important considering the damage to the environment. ‘’Kindly amend the alignment of the National Highway 166 a bit and protect the banyan tree,’’ he had urged.

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