The botanical garden of Kolkata, also known as Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose National Botanical Garden, was set up by Robert Kyd in 1787. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in British East India Company. He had a personal interest in horticulture and growing trees that would bring fortune to the company. The garden is located in Howrah, beside the river Hoogly.
On May 20, the garden was adversely affected by Cyclone Amphan. According to the experts, it has led to a loss that would take 200 years to make up for it.
Thousands of trees were uprooted and destroyed. Many of them were more than one or two centuries old; the loss is significant. Those who consider tress as living, and value and study them in detail, would call them dead bodies. The sight is heartbreaking, and the damage caused is still under evaluation. More and more sad revelations of destruction and irreparable damage are made with each new area explored ever since the destructive wave of cyclone Amphan. A once beautiful garden is now a nightmarish sight.
The areas of the garden are not being explored at a fast rate right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of staff. The sight of the former beautiful great botanical garden has turned into a nightmarish scene with corpses of big old trees lying around the whole garden, along with the destruction of other plants and areas of the garden.
The Botanical Garden of Kolkata is one of the oldest and largest reserves in South Asia. There are 14,000 species of trees and 13,722 species of plants. Out of these, 500 species are considered rare. Among all, there are a total 12,000 perennial plants belonging to 1,400 species. The garden also has conservatories, greenhouses, besides 25 divisions of herbaceous plants, further comprising of hundreds of species. It is a rich collection of living plant specimens for study, research, and preservation. The rich diversity also makes it a tourist attraction.
The botanical garden is home to many notable, old trees. One of them is the great banyan tree, about 15-20% of it has been destroyed by Amphan. It has a history of events related to it in the past as well. In 1975, its main trunk started to decay, which was removed, and the tree survived through its other prop roots that bore deep into the ground. The tree is still standing today, and it has survived many such natural disasters in the past. It stands firm to the test of time and nature. It is also called the garden’s biggest asset.
The other famous old trees such as ‘The Mad tree’ (which is called so because of its differently shaped leaves) and the ‘African Baobab tree’ have also been damaged in the cyclone. The African Baobab was brought from Madagascar and had a life span of 6,000 years and could hold 500 litres of water.
Several species of Bamboo were also crushed and destroyed. Hundreds of precious and imported plants and trees were damaged in the disaster. There were many ‘Mahogany trees’ which were also affected; they were brought from West Indies in 1975 by William Roxburgh, the botanist who took charge of the garden as superintendent after Robert Kyd.
The loss that the garden has suffered in May 2020 is vast. It would take up to two centuries to make the garden look like it used to—before being hit by the cyclone. Trees are our best friends; we should protect and preserve each species as they are an integral part of the ecosystem. Each species adds a unique value to the environment and organisms around them. We need to restore this destruction caused due to natural circumstances and keep protecting the trees in all ways possible for their priceless value.