Greens object to tree felling at medical institute

A view of the green space that is under threat on the premises of the Poojapura Panchakarma Ayurveda Institute in Thiruvananthapuram.  

Tree Walk, a citizens’ collective that aims at protecting greenery in the city, has asked the government to stay all development activities at the Poojappura Panchakarma Ayurveda Institute (PPI) till a ‘detailed assessment of the environmental and social impact of the socio-ecologically diverse green space’ is carried out.

The move comes amidst attempts to re-start construction activities by clearing trees and medicinal plants from the botanical garden for a para-surgical wing and geriatric pay ward for the PPI.

Poet’s protest

Incidentally, the late poet Sugathakumari had campaigned against the project in November 2019. “Let them find another space for the building. Let this space be retained as a protected medicinal garden,” she had written to the Health Minister.

In January this year, Tree Walk launched a letter campaign to the Health Minister to re-examine the proposal for construction activities. A Tree Walk team, including geographers, ecologists, environmental scientists, botanists and social scientists carried out a detailed study of the location in March. Based on the study, Tree Walk submitted a report to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, coinciding with World Environment Day, that stresses the need to rejuvenate the green space.

Initial land allotment

According to Tree Walk, the royal family of erstwhile Travancore had allocated 12 acres and 29 cents for a medicinal garden. Following the construction of the PPI and the establishment of the garden, trees were cleared to build a men’s hostel, women’s hostel, Panchakarma Hospital and associated structures. The garden and institute are under the Directorate of Medical Education.

A detailed mapping found that the gently sloping land supports a diverse number of flora. The land designated for construction houses the maximum diversity – the medicinal garden.

95 species listed

The ground around the building blocks is paved with tiles. Rain drops that would have percolated to the ground flow down the slopes wash away the surface soil.

The Tree Walk team has listed 95 species of herbs and trees on the premises. The botanical garden has 14 Ashoka trees (Saraca asoca) classified as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN red list. Many tree species here belong to the ‘rare,’ ‘endangered’ or ‘endemic’ categories.

Anitha S., coordinator, Tree Walk, said they had received intimation from the Chief Minister’s Office that the request had been forwarded to Principal Secretary, Forest and Wildlife and Director, Urban Affairs Department for taking action.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 11:07:14 PM |

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