Christmas With the Banyans 23 December 2023


Sunday, 23 December 2023, Moinabad, Hyderabad

Hyderabadis celebrate banyans judgement

People from all walks of life gathered around a cluster of Banyan trees to celebrate Christmas with the magnificent, century-old trees. It was also a celebration of the judgement from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in favour of the trees.

The issue:

Citizens from across Hyderabad gathered around a cluster of Banyan trees on the road a little after Moinabad to celebrate Christmas – and to express gratitude for the NGT Judgement of 6 November 2023 in favour of the banyan trees. The NGT has asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) not to go ahead with the road project unless they conduct an environmental impact assessment. Over a thousand Banyans line the National Highway (NH- 163) stretch from Hyderabad to Manneguda, 45 km away. These Banyans were planted by the Nizam nearly 100 years ago, and have been under the threat of felling because of a four-laning project by NHAI.

In total, nearly 9,000 trees along with these majestic Banyans have been at risk. This also includes the last-remaining scrub forests of Mudimyal and Kandlapally--home to many grassland specialists, including the migrating Harriers and the rare Tawny Eagles (listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List).

“While there are laws that protect trees in forests and in parks, there are no laws to protect roadside trees in our country. In the light of this, the NGT judgement is unprecedented”, says Sadhana Ramchander, who is part of the organising group called “Nature lovers of Hyderabad”.

 The Event:

 Parents, teachers, environmentalists, cyclists, children and many others gathered under the magnificent Banyan canopies over NH-163 -- one of the last such remaining stretches outside Hyderabad. They celebrated Christmas under, and with, the trees as a show of continued solidarity and gratitude.

There was a crafts corner where children and adults made some paper crafts and did some painting. They decorated the banyan with lovely paper stars, bird hangings and a wreath made of grasses. The group recited a pledge, written and read out by Dr Usha Raman, to continue support the banyans and nature everywhere.

Sadhana Ramchander spoke about dreaming the impossible dream and the unbelievable verdict from the NGT, Asiya Khan spoke about how friendship had been  made as like-minded people got together to fight to save the banyans during the campaign, Kobita Dass Kolli spoke about the banyans and why they are keystone species, and Anand Vishwanadha spoke about the challenges of the campaign and his special connection to the banyans.

There were games like a quiz on nature conducted by Kobita Dass Koilli, a game called Web of Life, conducted by Anjali Pande, and a lucky dip. The atmosphere was There festive with music, and snacks, cake and tea.

“Gathering under the beautiful Chevella banyans with fellow Hyderabadis, pledging to help save our beloved trees was very moving and motivating”, said Juhee Chapman, one of the participants.

“I really enjoyed the Nativity celebration, where people came with the conviction that policies can be changed, and greed can be addressed in the service of saving our natural heritage lining the Chevella Highway,” said Ira Vangipurapu, another participant.


Santhana Selvan, Bicycle Mayor of Hyderabad said, “One way to safeguard something is to constantly engage and celebrate. The Save Chevella Banyans core group has been continuously bringing people to the banyans for various festivals. Yesterday, people celebrated Christmas with the Chevella banyans. We were glad to be there, representing the Cycling community of Hyderabad. We must all continue to work together for a better future and environment. Thank you for doing this.”

The judgement

In their latest order, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to complete a detailed and ‘special’ study to find alternative means to ensure that the 750 Banyans are safe and sound. The order does not support any uprooting or cutting of these trees until such a report is submitted to the tribunal at the earliest. The 700-odd Banyans mentioned in the order are the trees that will be impacted by the road-widening; there are another 200 trees that are unaffected as the present alignment does not reach them.

The NGT notes that the Banyan clusters on NH-163 present a unique situation owing to the wide variety of avian and other species they sustain. The tribunal also notes the wide trunks and large canopies of these Banyans relative to the other trees in their vicinity.

The Nature Lovers of Hyderabad agree and join the tribunal in urging NHAI to consider serious alternatives that will safeguard all the Banyans on NH-163. We also bring to their attention that bypassing a small and sensitive scrub-forest like Mudimyal will save one of the last scrublands on the borders of Hyderabad.


Nature Lovers of Hyderabad

 “Christmas with the banyans” was organised by a civic action group, ‘Nature Lovers of Hyderabad’, comprising naturalists, bird-watchers, scientists and lay public with an interest in the environment. They are a group of diverse nature lovers who appreciate and enjoy trees and their myriad resident tree-dwellers. The threatened banyans of Chevella galvanized them to form a campaign to save them and find sustainable solutions to development projects. They hope that their action group will feed into and inform a wider cause: impacting state and national policy towards protecting trees and other natural wonders, especially in the light of climate change.