The giant Ficus Benghalensis in Chandanee Magu
The giant Ficus Benghalensis in Chandanee Magu - Photo: ECOCARE
Chandanee Magu, perhaps one of the busiest roads in Male’, especially during early morning hours around 6:30am and during the afternoon hours around 12:30pm, students keep rushing in flocks trying to make it before the bell rings. They really don’t want to be late for school. Two main schools are located on Chandanee Magu, one is Iskandar School, a primary school which just started grade 8 this year and second is Aminiya School, which up until very recently was the only government girls only school in Male’. Also another high school, Center for Higher Secondary Education (CHSE) which is adjacent to Aminiya School, on Lily Magu, which also leads to Chandanee Magu, is located in the same area. Imagine the timings mentioned earlier; students, parents, teachers and all the honking vehicles crowd this busy road making Chandanee Magu one very noisy, congested and yet important road. However, one fact remains; this busy street on this very particular area is covered by the shade of some very huge trees. Not only do these trees provide shade but also they give delight and contentment. Among the many Tecoma that cover the area one remarkably large tree spreads all over the area, a huge Ficus Benghalensis.
The Ficus Benghalensis is a large tree that goes by the name Banyan tree (locally known as Nika), found in parts of the Maldives. The seeds of the ever green Banyan tree germinate on the branches of other trees, from where they send aerial roots to the ground. The tree produces figs (small red fruits) which are popular with the local birds and bats. The leaves of this giant tree which can grow over a height of 20 meters and can reach a diameter of some 200 meters are broad, oval and glossy. It is said that at one time more than 7000 people can sit under its shade.
The particular Banyan tree in question, which we are worried about, is now located at a construction site for a large school building on Chandanee Magu, opposite to Aminiya School. The tree is estimated to some 10 meters in height. Abdul Latheef Adam (Gabbe latheef), now the editor of Miyadhu Daily, while he was a young boy in English Preparatory and Secondary School (EPSS), planted this Banyan tree hoping to grow into the fine shady tree it is today. The thoughts and memories of many of his friends and others from EPSS remain with this Nikagas. Today there is no longer an EPSS in the Maldives, but there are many who graduated from this once great academic institute in the heart of Male’. These former students regard this Banyan tree as a sign of their existence, a mark of memory and achievement.
View of the construction site
The Regulation on Conservation and Protection of Old trees in their natural condition, passed under the Environment Protection and Preservation Act, enforced by the Ministry of Environment in the Maldives, only guarantees ‘protected’ status to those trees that are over 50 years of age. The Chandanee Magu, Banyan tree is believed to be old, but not old enough for the regulation to be enforced. The tree is some 35-40 years old. Therefore the law cannot protect this special tree. However, according to the regulation, if the community wants a tree to be protected considering its importance, they can do so through the Municipality proposing to the Ministry of Environment.
Three other trees that were in the same area were all Tecoma, locally known as Madimasvakarugas, have now been cut down to clear the site, ready for construction. Some part of the Banyan tree has also been cut down to make space for the proposed construction, but what is important is that the giant Ficus Benghalensis on Chandanee Magu will remain.
Coming back to where we started, with the three huge trees already cut down, this area of Chandanee Magu, which once was a green patch in the very heart of a “concrete jungle” is now stripped out of its ever greenness. Those trees that once were considered as an umbrella, giving a good cover from the hot sun in the afternoons no longer is open for the many students, parents, by passers or honking vehicles that crowd this road.
ECOCARE activists at the site
ECOCARE Maldives is very concerned about the continuous stripping and cutting down of large trees from the different parts of Male’. As Male’ is becoming more concrete every day, it is important for us to conserve these trees that are the remaining signs of a once green Male’.