A 400-year-old banyan tree that was in the centre of a protest against a highway project in Maharashtra's Sangli district will remain unharmed, Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray announced in a tweet today.
Mr Thackeray said that the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has shelved plans to cut the tree which was coming in the path of a road construction project. Instead the NHAI will realign the highway close to the tree, he said.
"The 400 year old banyan tree in Sangli district that we saved with a letter to @NHAI_Official. One can see the highway close to the tree. That, now will be realigned to save the tree. The tree is a keeper of legends, folklore and memories of many who played there as children," he tweeted.
The 400 year old banyan tree in Sangli district that we saved with a letter to @NHAI_Official . One can see the highway close to the tree. That, now will be realigned to save the tree. The tree is a keeper of legends, folklore and memories of many who played there as children. pic.twitter.com/e8AcIhZm8h— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 24, 2020
The NHAI had planned to chop of the 400-year-old tree -- whose canopy is spread over 400 sq mt -- for the Ratnagiri-Solapur highway project, triggering protests from environmentalists and villagers. The moments also saw activists gathering around the tree as a form of Chipko movement to protect it.
"The NHAI was preparing to cut off the tree for the Ratnagiri-Solapur highway project. We started Chipko movement while keeping social-distancing in mind to save the tree. Taking not of our movement, Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray wrote to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who took note of this and instructed officials to not cut the tree," said Praveen Shinde, an environmental activist.
The movement saw residents sharing, uploading photos of the tree on social media in an attempt to show how wide the branches of the tree spread. Some of these videos featured monkeys and other species on its branches to highlight that large number of animals have made it their home.