Sahyadri Arboretum, a conservation project of rare trees from Sahyadri inaugurated

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Pune, June 5: Both Ex situ and In Situ methods of conservation, outside and inside the natural habitat are equally important and should be used during the preservation effort of the plants and trees from the Western Ghats that are becoming rare, opined noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil while inaugurating ‘Sahyadri Arboretum’. Plant enthusiast Shrikant Ingalhalikar, Dr. Lakshaman Kulkarni, founder of ARK Wellness Centre, K. C. Malhotra, Founder of Sahyadri Academy of Ecological Sciences, renowned hotelier Vitthal Kamat, Chetan Phale, Sarpanch of Nandgaon, Santosh Chavan and Santosh Mundhe from the forest department were present on the occasion.

Sahyadri Arboretum, has come up through a meticulous effort of Shrikant Ingalhalikar at ARK Wellness Centre at Nandgaon near Paud. Here, visitors can see over 300 rare plants and trees from Sahyadri along with their botanical name and other related information. Entry to this arboretum is free. Objective of this Arboretum is to create awareness about the rich biodiversity of Western Ghats.

“I have experienced that conservation effort done with the In Situ approach also brings equally good results. I have seen it while working with environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, where he undertook the plantation drive with the participation of the local community and could achieve a survival rate of over 80%”, he informed.

According to him the trees are not necessarily protected and conserved only due to religious beliefs. Locals also preserve them for various other reasons. “I have observed that in many religions and countries trees from the Ficus family are considered holy and thus are not cut. Interestingly, during some field studies, I found that the common locals were very much aware of the fact that these trees produce fruits all-round the year and thus are an integral part of the food chain on which many insects, birds and animals are dependent for food”, Gadgil added.  

He pointed out that Vat Purnima is celebrated in our state with a lot of enthusiasm, which has a place in our Puranas that are about 1500 years old. However, a stamp found in Mohenjo Daro, a civilization much before that, was found in the shape of a Pimple leaf, which surely underlines the importance given to the trees in such an ancient era.

“Concept of protected forests like Devrai also exists in other states like Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. We always feel that such forests are protected only due to beliefs in the religion and shall be destroyed once such beliefs end. However, I found that people are also preserving such forests due to other benefits which they get from such forests like medicinal properties,food, ecosystem for the animals and so on”, Madhav Gadgil stated.

In Gadchiroli district, locals  after getting collective forest rights kept big land parcels as the ‘Forest of God’ spontaneously. In a nutshell, efforts like conservation and preservation are being taken up in various ways and due to different reasons. So, all needs to be studied and discussed in detail before deciding the way forward in this regard”, Gadgil concluded.

K. C. Malhotra informed that soon a nursery will be set up at Sahyadri Arboretum which will provide material for producing fresh saplings of these rare plant species. An attempt to involve CSR funds and activities for planting these trees at different places would also be made.

Shrikant Ingalhalikar, spoke about his journey of the last 10 years of the conservation where he tried various methods for turning saplings into grown up trees.