The Big Dendrophobics


I am the Agar wood or Oud tree that has been growing for more than 5 decades in the green campus of the heritage space in the city –the Residency and Guest house . It would be better to say that I  “was the agar tree” because now I am just logs with little or no life left in me. There are a few of my species in the campus and I know I am rare and threatened due to exploitation for my fragrant wood which is made into incense like the White and Black Dammar.

I remember a day  3 years ago  when a few people assembled in the path leading to me to talk for the huge Agar tree that the authorities in the institution wanted to cut as it was alleged to hamper the stability of a recently constructed building.  We were anxious about our sister tree but after what seemed long  dialogues and arguments the tree was left alone. We withstood  many a rain, wind and hot summers after that.

But it was just yesterday that I was rudely shocked and pained to see, hear and feel the sounds and piercing of chain saws into my body. I realized that my end has been decided by people who hate trees and greenery. The need for a new building has been in the offing for some time. The plot chosen happens to be where I am growing. That is how a team of people came and examined all the trees in this green space and decided that buildings are more important than trees. Unfortunately we cannot voice our protest as we have no voice- if we had the whole human world would have been deafened by the sounds. We also have no legs to run away or come with more tree siblings to fight. So here I am lying as pieces on Mother Earth in which I sprouted many years ago as a small sapling.

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Unfortunately this time I did not get the support of few dendrophils in the campus who would have alerted the group as they did in 2019. At that time they had come many times in groups, alerted the media and even met the Union Minister for Tourism who was staying in the Guest House. The Tree Committee and the Socio Forestry department who had given permission to cut the sister Agar tree had to rewrite their decision. The Mayor ( Chairperson of Tree Committee) convened a meeting and decided that it is not necessary to cut the tree. It was a happy success because the right things and right people came together at the right time . And the magnificent tree stands tall and green spreading coolness , shade and refuge to so many creatures.

I am less fortunate as the times of Covid took  away the alertness and attention of many friends who are sympathetic and fond of Nature and trees. There was no one to speak up for the rare and endangered state that the tree species and genus including mine are. We have been exploited so much for the fragrant wood, the forests where we live have been destroyed indiscriminately that we figure in the IUCN Red Data book for Rare and Endangered species. 8 species of Agar (Aquilaria) has been listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Appendix II as Vulnerable.

There was no one to talk about the unique nature in which we are stimulated to produce fragrance by the presence of a mold ( Fungus ) in our body- this is a very rare occurrence and we get chosen by the mold! The bark then exudes the fragrance and becomes the most valuable wood in the world. It has been found that the insides of a Oud tree can harbor 340 different varieties of fungi and 121 kinds of bacteria. The oleo resin that exudes as a result of fungal or bacterial infestation is so fragrant and highly medicinal that it has been used in making incense, perfumes, drugs and stimulants.  Oud is an essential part of Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu ceremonies.

Perhaps the only thing that human beings understand and value is the economic value attached to the Oud  exudates. A kilogram costs Rs 73,00,000 as per records. It seemed very strange that I have been sold for a mere 85,000 rs !!! This speaks volumes about the manipulative aura of corruption that surrounds the way I was destroyed. Along with me more than 30 trees belonging to other species have been marked for cutting- some have been already cut. Thus the death knell of a green lung has been sounded.

I often wonder why human beings need so many buildings. The Guest House that is already there is hardly occupied-then why another attempt at expansion ? The Thycaud area with so many educational institutions especially for children ( The Model High School Primary and Higher Secondary Section ) can do with a green park for the children to play and stay healthy. A walkway with a peep into biodiversity could have been made here so easily especially when the Government is spending so much for Green corners and Miya-Waki forests. Nature herself will make an abundant biodiverse grove if you let her be.

I also understand that many people who are in the top positions of decision making are unaware about the ecological role of trees and other beings. They are not aware of the fact that a tree cannot be replaced especially if it has grown for many years. That is why such destructive decisions are taken so easily and casually. A tree’s blueprint cannot be redrawn whereas a building plan can be drawn again .

I feel sad because in a few days time the flowering season would have started in preparation for next year’s saplings. My fragrant flowers attract a lot of insects. Due to rarity and near extinction in the wild, many Agar species have been artificially grown in plantations. The resin exudates are also generated artificially by many methods. I remember how in 2019 , the dendrophilics came and were so excited with the flowers.

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I am really sad to say goodbye to this beautiful piece of land that gave me refuge for so many years. I will miss the wind that strokes the high canopy and leaves. I will not be able to feel and hear the wing beats of huge kites that rise up in thermal eddies. Sometimes my branches will be shaken by the weight of kites alighting on them with a prey or for rest. Many a nesting season I will be holding the nests and hearing the cries of the chicks. It is really interesting to watch the fledglings gain balance and finally hit the sky on the first flight. Small birds,  adventurous enough to fly high also touch my canopy- so too the scurrying squirrels and basking garden lizards. I have been visited by the occasional golden rat snake or the stealthy viper or krait which upsets the squirrels.   I loved the rains that would pour down to my base and drench the roots along the bark. So too the summer suns that increases photosynthetic activity and raise oxygen levels all around.

I wonder if anyone will miss me. But I am in one way satisfied that I lived a full life….maybe the dendrophils will come by to say goodbye and tell my story to the children and public …and the dendrophobics will bask in the glory of having created a paved walkway and a concrete building.

Anitha.S ( Coordinator Tree Walk ) a few hours before the event Adieu, Agar wood tree” at the site of the tree massacre.

After referring many papers on Aquilaria species and microbial /endophyte diversity in the tree .


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