As the world observes environment day, citizens in Aurangabad city of Maharashtra are pushing for biodiversity zone tag for a 17th century garden that is home to more than 10,000 trees and 82 species of birds.
Called Himayat Baugh, the sprawling garden is one of the few green zones left in Aurangabad, an industrial hub in central Maharashtra, and is located in heart of the city.
Of late, the garden has fallen prey to encroachments and is shrinking in size day by day, said citizens who have launched a campaign to declare it a biodiversity zone to save it from further ruination.
Members of the Himayat Baugh Conservation Action Committee (HBCAC) are spearheading the campaign to protect and preserve the garden.
A member of Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) tree committee, Dr Kishor Pathak, said, “This is an oxygen hub of Aurangabad. There were 350 peacocks in this area six years ago, now the number is merely 20.
“Every six months we see a new encroachment here.
There are 82 types of birds, 45 types of butterflies, eight types of snakes, 80 types of flies residing here.” Pathak expressed concern over encroachments around the garden.
“Footfalls of mischievous people have brought this beauty in danger. A huge number of trees have crossed a life of 200 years here and every tree is capable of being a heritage,” Pathak said.
Taking to PTI, Chandrashekhar Borde, a member of HBCAC, expressed concern over illegal cutting of trees in the garden.
“The baugh has more than 10,000 trees and the place is centrally located in Aurangabad city. Illegal tree cutting by people of neighboring areas has made the garden sparse and this has hampered the fauna here,” Borde said.
Trees should not only be conserved here but plantation should be undertaken through long-term planning, the HBCAC member said.
A detailed representation in this regard was sent to Maharashtra Chief Ministers office in 2016, Borde said.
Advocate Swapnil Joshi, a member of the panel, said, “This place has grasslands, swamps which act as homes for many birds. It is qualified for becoming a biodiversity zone in accordance with the Biodiversity Act, 2001.
The committee had asked the AMC to initiate steps to protect the garden and not to construct any new establishment there, but nothing much has happened, Joshi said.
Some pending contracts between the AMC and owner of the garden – the Vasantrao Naik Agriculture University of Parbhani – if completed can save much of the place, Joshi said.
Tejaswini Aphale, a history researcher who recently surveyed the garden, said the place holds historical importance.
She said, “The underground hall in this baugh with huge water tanks on two sides is a unique structure with ‘barradari’ (buildings) at both ends. There is fortification and bastions around this with a beautiful structure with a Mughal-style roof.
“Shakkar Bawdi (well with sweet water) is another unique structure here. These structures are disturbed by tremendous unplanned interventions. This treasure can still be conserved. It has tourist potential too,” Aphale said.
When contacted, Dr Ashok Dhawan, Vice-Chancellor, Vasantrao Naik Agriculture University, said, “This place certainly has potential to become a biodiversity zone. Flora and fauna here are rare too.” Dhawan recognised the importance of the garden and pledged to protect it.
“We face problems from mischievous people and encroachers. We are short on manpower… still we try to maintain the garden.
“We are ready to conserve the garden and historical monuments without compromising on our basic aim of fruit research and ownership rights,” Dhawan said.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed. )