At Nandi Hills, sustainable holidaying is key

Nandi Hills is not just a holiday space for fun, visitors are made to realise the sustainable green features brought in for responsible holidaying, say the Horticulture Department officials

Today’s generation may be seeing Nandi Hills nestled amidst the lush of green, but would you believe that the ancient hill fortress, also called Nandidurg, less then 250 years ago, was a bald granite rock, devoid of any trees and vegetation, while Bengaluru itself was mainly a barren stretch of land then, along a ridge on the Deccan Plateau.

In the book, Heritage Trees: In and around Bangalore, author Vijay Thiruvady, an engineer-turned-naturalist and walking encyclopedia on trees, says the city owes much of its flora to Hyder Ali and Tipu and the British rule, apart from botanists and horticulture authorities who later came into making it green. “Bengaluru has managed to become home to one of the greatest collection of trees from around the world,” says Vijay.

This kind of a recent greenery-drive too is what puts the status of Nandi Hills in context to the evolving green. “After the Mysore Maharaja gave away Nandi Hills to the Department of Horticulture in 1914 for seeing further development, this is the first ever major integrated development undertaken. It is nearly 105 years, and although regular maintenance work was going on with respect to Gandhi Bhavan, Nehru House, the Trekking trail, Tipu drop, Tippu’s Summer Lounge and Nandi Caves, several sustainable green methods had to be brought in amongst which planting of trees was paramount for balancing and maintaining bio-diversity,” says Dr MV Venkatesh, Director, Horticulture Department.

Calling this the beginning of a new chapter in the ecology of Nandi Hills, the restoration work, he says, started with the laying of the two-kilometre road from the fort entrance to the top hill. “The introduction of three eco-vehicles makes it that much more easier for people now to have a panoramic view of the city as they are driving atop,” says Venkatesh, adding that the Mini Glass House, Plant House, four VVIP suites, the royal corridor connecting the VVIP lounge and the 12 rooms for public use are all renovated. “The mini Palace too is restored to retain its old legacy.”

Water and soil conservation

The Horticulture Department says they cannot talk of their massive tree-planting drive in isolation, as other important factors brought in helps in sustaining their planting endeavour. “We have an integrated Rain Water Harvesting system in place that has infiltration pits and trenching across the slope, apart from bringing in catch-pits around the tree canopies, to have better water absorption,” says Venkatesh.

Speaking about the details of the conservation, Dr. M. Jagadeesh, Joint Director (Lalbagh Botanical Garden) Horticulture Department says de-silting at the water origins of Arkavathy and Palar rivers that originate at Nandi Hills is taken up. “We also have de-silting at the water collection Pond, the main source of elixir for the massive 200 by 200 feet Amrutha Sarovara Kalyani (water tank) near the Tipu Palace,” he says, adding that the major soil conservation programme at the top hill near Nehru Nilaya is where 64 water infiltration pits have been included in the eight approach roads that lead to the Circular Ring Road,” he says.

Green, all along

Nearly 20,000 saplings will be part of the huge tree-plantation programme at Nandi Hills by the Horticulture Department in its two-year greening drive and nearly 20 per cent has been done. “During the reign of Mark Cubbon as the Commissioner of Mysore from 1834 to 1861, he had personally taken interest to flag off the greening of the rocky hill, 1458 metres above sea level. But records have it that in the 1760’s itself there were trees naturally integral to Nandi Hills, some of the most popular medicinals being 50 camphor trees, and nearly 7000 eucalyptus that are 200 years old,” says Jagadeesh.

What Nandi Hills also boasts of in its collection is a few lakh trees of Coffee Bulbisiana, originally planted by the British that has its source unknown. These short variety trees are heavy fruit bearers attracting multiple species of birds. “While this coffee variety is now multiplied into thousands more, we have pruned them too to be used as hedging trees. 5000 plant saplings of this Coffee have been developed to spread them across the green lungs of Karnataka,” says Jagadeesh.

Nandi Hills was always home to evergreen woody plants Podocarpus, and Pencil Cedars, and Cupressus, apart from 500 variety medicinals, and the list is growing now,” says Jagadeesh. “In the three-acre temperate garden, the British gave us Apple, Pear, Peach and plums, that are maintained even now,” he adds.

What the Horticulture Department has newly brought in are also varieties of Rainbow Eucalyptus, Coniferous forest plants as berry, beaked hazelnut, rose and wild edibles, apart from medicinals. Screw Pine, London Pine, Golden Casuarina and Agathis robusta a coniferous tree occurring in Papua New Guinea and Australia amongst others have also entered the Hills. “There are plants that flower only in this hilly region that includes Fuchsia (dancing girl), a genus of flowering plants mostly of shrubs or small trees, Cyclomera and the beautiful shades of purples and pinks in Hydrangeas and Azaleas that we have brought in,” says Jagadeesh.

All you need to know

- Nandi Hills, 60 kilometres from Bengaluru, in the Chikkaballapura district, even in the heat of Summer is 15 degrees F

- While Mahatma Gandhi visited twice and stayed there for 45 days to rejuvenate his failed health, Pt. Nehru too visited Nandi Hills to enjoy the misty mornings

- The SAARC Summit in 1986 brought in Prime Ministers of seven nations to Nandi Hills

- The tree wealth of Nandi Hills runs into an upward 30 lakh, according to the Horticulture Department

- The integrated development work is on a budget of 1.63 crores, that is taken care of by CSR work related to United Way steered by Prashanth.

- Environmentalists Ravi Kumar and Yellappa Reddy have also been on the list of advisers and mentors

- Ornithologist Dr. Subramanya has recorded 197 species of birds at Nandi Hills in his book ‘Birds of Nandi Hills.’

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 12:55:19 PM |

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