There was an item in the news recently about the State Forest Dept. seeking an amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act (1976). (A big Thank You to Sheshadri of Hasiru Usiru for this information). The gist of the proposed amendment is that permission should not be required to cut trees of 42 species. Among the 42 species that the Forest Dept. wants people to be able to freely fell are beautiful and useful species such as neem, jackfruit, peepal, banyan, mango, tamarind and sheesham.
I couldn't help but contrast the cavalier attitude our administrators have towards trees with that of a ruler who died on this day 221 years ago: Tipu Sultan. Among his many proclamations was one that directed his amildars to try and plant 200 trees in every village. Another said people found guilty of minor offences could plant trees instead of paying a fine -- 2 mango and 2 jamun, to be looked after till they were of a certain height! There is also a story of how Tipu was thrilled to find a nutmeg tree during his capture of the fort of Cochin: here was one of the species he had been seeking to introduce, for it was not found in his kingdom. Tipu had the tree carefully uprooted, wrapped in rice straw and transported to one of his gardens in Srirangapatna. The tree died unfortunately. But some of the nutmeg and clove seedlings that he asked his ambassadors to bring back from Mauritius and elsewhere survived. Some of those were probably planted in Lalbagh too.
The next time you enjoy the peace and quiet of a morning walk in Lalbagh, spare a thought for one of the men who made it possible.
For more on Tipu and his gardens, read this published in today's Deccan Herald.