Seturam Gopalrao Neginhal: The man who planted Bengaluru’s trees

A tribute to SG Neginhal, who recently died of COVID-19, and to whom the Garden City owes a green

Published: 05th May 2021 06:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th May 2021 06:13 AM   |  A+A-

S G Neginhal

S G Neginhal

Express News Service

BENGALURU : One of the most remarkable things about Bengaluru are its trees – sprawling canopies through which the blue sky is visible, leaves rustling in the breeze, and colours of blooms that change with the season. Ever wonder who planted them? It was Seturam Gopalrao Neginhal, who retired from the Karnataka forest department after 36 years of service. He died of COVID-19 in a hospital in Bengaluru on Sunday, and is survived by his wife, a son and four daughters, and the green legacy he left for the city’s residents.

Yellappa Reddy, who served as secretary to the department of ecology and environment in 1972, recalls that the D Devaraj Urs-government laid the foundation of greening Bengaluru in 1980. It was Neginhal who headed the Urban Green Project. While Bengaluru already had Cubbon Park and Lalbagh due to the British, the streets were bare in the 1960s, recounts Harini Nagendra in her book Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present and Future. In the chapter on street trees, she recounts Bengaluru’s fascinating ecological history and has particular praise for Neginhal who planted over 1.5 million saplings of 150 different species across the city, including raintrees, aakash mallige, tabebuia, bougainvillea, mango, avocado, and jamun.

SG Neginhal planted over 1.5 million saplings of 150 different species

“He planted both native and foreign varieties. A lot of raintrees were planted across JP Nagar and the Nanda Talkies Road, while Koramangala’s 80 Feet Road had a lot of aakash mallige trees. He also sent me a message that he had planted all those trees,” Nagendra tells CE. Na g e n d r a , professor of sustainability at Azim Premji University, said that Neginhal involved the city’s residents in planting trees in their neighbourhoods. “Neginhal used to take inputs from the residents of Bengaluru about the fruiting trees that they wanted to plant in their localities. Mango and avocado were some of the sought-after trees and people volunteered to nurture the trees themselves,” she says.

Neginhal painstakingly ensured that the young plants grew into healthy, beautiful trees, by ensuring that tree guards were built around the saplings so that cows did not eat them up. Nagendra adds. Reddy says that urban forestry needed to consider space constraints, transmission cables, underground drainage system, etc. “Although I had not worked with Neginhal, his contribution towards Bengaluru’s green cover is commendable.

I believe he had first-hand knowledge on the field and mustered the strength of his subordinates to execute the work with great commitment,” says Reddy. Reddy estimates that sadly, just about 30% of the trees that Neginhal planted survived the onslaught of urbanisation that gobbled up much of Bengaluru’s green cover. Leo Saldanha, a Bengalurean who works at Environment Support Group, says, “When I used to cycle during the 90’s, the roads were covered with a beautiful canopy on both sides. Neginhal was just the right person in the department who called for people’s participation in maintaining ecological integrity in the city.”

Raintree: Its quarter acre canopy is a great shield from the sun
Jamun: Sustains different species of butterflies
Neem: Natural air purifier
Tabebuia: Ornamental tree with pink, purple and yellow blooms that make you fall in love with

India Matters


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