GUWAHATI, May 18 � Most of the old big trees along the Guwahati avenues, particularly in the Strand Road (now MG Road) stretch between Bharalumukh and Satpukhuri (now Raj Bhawan) areas, around the Judge�s Field and the Dighalipukhuripar areas and Uzanbazar and Panbazar areas are over a century old and planted during the British rule. Of course, some of them were planted during the rule of the Barphukans of the Ahom kings, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.
He lamented the fact that Guwahati has been turned into a city with concrete structures built in a haphazard manner. But, about 60 years back, it was a town of trees, flowers and green hills and soft-mannered, simple living people who were bound to the society. Those days, Guwahati girls were also very simple in their attires, Hazarika said.
Hazarika, who was talking to this correspondent, lamented that many such old trees were uprooted by the thunderstorms time to time and some of them were felled during the 1960s following hullabaloo over the dropping of the birds nesting on those trees.
Among the British administrators, whose name could be cited in respect to avenue plantation in Guwahati, AHW Benting�s name comes first. Benting was a Deputy Commissioner (SC) of undivided Kamrup district for around seven years during the second decade of the 20th century. He planted trees along the Guwahati avenues to add beauty to the town and comfort to the road users of this administrative town, which was endowed with a verdant appearance then. Benting rose to the post of Commissioner of Assam Valley in the later part of the 1920s. Later, after his retirement from that post, he used to stay at the Amsing Tea Estate till the Word War-II broke out in 1938. He then left for England, selling the TE to the Kolkata-based Bhaduri Brothers.
Benting used to take care of the trees he had planted along the Guwahati avenues even when he was staying at the Amsing TE. When he was the DC of Kamrup, he issued an order banning felling of trees in Guwahati. He used to monitor compliance of that order himself.
In his avenue plantation drive, one of his office staff helped him immensely, while two fourth grade employees of his office used to carry the saplings for plantation. They also used to replace the sick saplings with the healthy ones.
It is believed that Benting introduced the rain trees in Guwahati for their ability to provide cool shades with their huge and thick canopies, besides adding to the beauty of the Guwahati roads. Those trees also became colonies of various indigenous species of birds. Rain trees are the indigenous tree species of Central America.
Because of such initiatives of the Ahom era Barphukans and the British administrators, Panbazar to Dighalipukhuripar areas and the Bharalumukh to Satpukhuri stretch of the Strand Road also used to become colourful with the yellow, red, violet etc., flowers of the sonaru, krishnachura, ajar etc., trees during the spring time (April-May). Besides, there were many nahar trees in the Church Field (now Nehru Park). In the past, the krishnacura trees were so abundant in Guwahati that it was also called a Krishnachura Nagari by the visitors from other areas of the State.
Even till the 1970s, Guwahatians had a culture of planting flowering and fruit bearing trees like bokul, sonaru, ajar, radhachura, sewali, krishnachura, mango, jackfruits, star fruits, kola jamu etc., besides nahar trees, flowering creepers like the madhabilata and seasonal flowers like merry gold, tagar, lily, parijat, among others, on their residential compounds, he said.
He regretted that during the post-Independence period, there was no serious drive to grow trees along the city roads and streets and to protect its hills and forests, though �Forest Weeks� are routinely celebrated during the first week of July every year.