The Indian Botanic Garden in Shibpur is bracing for Yaas.
No sooner had it recovered from the body blow of Amphan exactly a year ago than the garden, crippled by inadequate staff and funds, was hurled into a fight against another cyclone that is set to hit the Bengal-Odisha coast on May 26 morning.
Amphan had ripped off a significant portion of the canopy of the 271-year-old Great Banyan Tree and had damaged and uprooted countless trees in the 273-acre garden.
The garden authorities are scrambling to protect the huge, old trees but such efforts are hampered by the lockdown as most of the staff is unavailable.
Scientists are trying to save the new branches that have emerged in the gaping hole in the north-west portion of the canopy of the Great Banyan Tree by putting bamboo props to support them.
Apart from The Great Banyan Tree, there are other old trees with huge canopies which are being pruned so that they maintain their centre of gravity and don’t topple in the cyclone.
“We can do very little particularly in the current situation of lockdown. There is hardly any staff available. We are making do with those who live nearby and outsourcing a few,” said Basant Kumar Singh, a senior scientist at the garden.
Cyclone Amphan with wind speeds up to 170km an hour had wreaked havoc in the garden last year, blowing off a huge portion of the north-west canopy of the Great Banyan Tree.
It had also damaged about 1,000 trees in the garden and uprooted several hundred. Some of these, including the 100-year-old Baobab tree or Kalpavriksha were later replanted.
“We are putting bamboo props to support the young branches that have come out in the canopy of the Great Banyan Tree. There is only so much we can do. We are also pruning branches of other trees so that they are not top heavy and can withstand the heavy gusts of winds,” said Singh.
“We are also alerting the guards in the garden so they immediately inform us if there is major damage,” said the scientist.
The Great Banyan Tree is no stranger to cyclones. It had lost its main trunk to two cyclones in 1864 and 1867.
It has the biggest canopy spreading over 1.6 hectares with an interconnected branch system that looks like a mini-forest. Most of these branches are supported with props.