Metro Rail transplants Chennai’s Grand Old Banyan Tree

Chennai: The Chennai Metro Rail Limited, in association with other state agencies, has successfully transplanted a huge banyan tree, over 120-years-old, which was uprooted in the recent rains in the premises of the Government Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital here.

In fact, the tree is much older than the institution founded in 1960. Before that, the premises was home to the College of Indian Medicine which was established in 1925.

“This tree is a proud heritage and symbol of our college’s services to the people. Restoration was a collective effort and we are happy that the roots have embedded well in the new location,” Dr P Ramakrishnan, Dean, KMCH told.

Medical college students and faculty say they have fond memories of good times spent under the shady giant which has many aerial roots. The tree occupies the central portion of the campus and all faculty blocks are situated around it.

When the CMRL was approached for help, environment specialists working for Metro Rail happily agreed.

“A huge pit was dug with 15 metre circumference and five metre depth. Unfortunately, heavy rain filled the pit with water. Fire service personnel were called who helped in draining water from the pit,” said K Elanthiraiyan, Public Relations Officer, Chennai Metro Rail Limited.

The branches of the tree were then pruned to reduce the weight and plant medicine was sprayed to prevent degeneration of roots, especially in a new location. Also, hormones were applied to the root ends, he said.

“With the help of two 50 ton hydraulic cranes, an excavator and a backhoe loader, the tree was lifted and transplanted in the pit (about 15 feet away) and it was covered with earth for adequate support. The whole operation took 48 hours,” he said.

The tree had a girth of 11 metres and weighed 20 tonnes after removal of branches. Now after a few weeks of transplantation, new aerial roots and sprouts are seen, indicating the success of the shifting exercise.

Hospital authorities also thanked the Tamil Nadu Fire Services personnel,college staff and students for their active participation in the transplantation exercise.