The campaign to protect the century-old banyans on the Hyderabad-Manneguda road is facing continued challenges as road widening for NH-163 has begun near Himayatnagar Village with a few buildings already demolished. Even as the authorities had offered assurances that they would do minimal damage, it appears that more than 700 of the 914 banyans will be removed from the Chevella-Vikarabad stretch.
On December 23rd 2022, members of the Nature Lovers of Hyderabad, which has been running the Save Chevella Banyans campaign, met a group of about 10 people from NHAI at the banyans after Moinabad. The group included Mr P Nageswara Rao - General Manager (Tech) and PD, NHAI; Sriram Murthy - Contractor; and Vijay Kumar - Consultant to NHAI. The NHAI representatives said that there would be 20 flyovers over a 46 km stretch, each flanked by service roads, to avoid the existing villages/habitations along the current road. A total of 705 Chevella banyans are to be translocated for the construction of the highway. This is in addition to thousands of other trees that will also be removed in addition to the banyans.
According to the NHAI representatives, 550 trees are to be translocated–much higher than the original number of 439 that had been given on an earlier meeting with the Nature Lovers group. This number does not include banyans along Mudimiyal and Kandlapally that are in the jurisdiction of the Forest Department–if these are included, the total number of banyans lost will be about 705. In essence, just 209 trees would be untouched–less than 23% percent of the Chevella banyans will remain.
The NHAI indicated that removal of trees will start once the Tree Protection Committee/Forest Department permissions come through. Though the matter is at the National Green Tribunal based on a petition by the Nature Lovers of Hyderabad, it appears that they are not going to wait for the verdict to start work, which essentially nullifies the entire judicial process.
The campaign to Save the Banyans of Chevella is run by an independent, informal citizens’ group, ‘Nature Lovers of Hyderabad’, with the aim of conserving the stretch of iconic century-old banyan trees along the Chevella-Vikarabad road. These trees represent a rich ecosystem that supports a range of flora and fauna, primarily bird and insect life, distinct to the region. The group believes that declaring the stretch an ecological heritage zone would go a long way in helping conserve the unique biodiversity of the Deccan plateau, and in mitigating climate change.