Dhaka, the vibrant capital of Bangladesh, is a bustling metropolis where modernity and tradition coexist in a delicate balance. Amidst the chaos of urban development and rapid population growth, there stands a silent yet significant guardian of the city's history and environmental well-being - the old trees. These ancient sentinels, often overlooked in the urban landscape, play a crucial role in maintaining Dhaka's ecological equilibrium, enhancing its aesthetic appeal, and preserving its cultural heritage. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve deeper into the profound significance of conserving old trees in Dhaka, emphasizing their environmental, cultural, and social importance.

A Living Link to the Past

Dhaka's old trees, some of which are centuries old, serve as living witnesses to the city's history and evolution. These venerable giants have silently observed the rise and fall of dynasties, the waves of colonialism, and the birth of a nation. They provide a tangible connection to the past, acting as living monuments that remind us of the city's rich heritage.

One such remarkable tree is the Dholai Khal Bilati Baanyan tree, believed to be around 500 years old. This colossal tree stands as a testament to the city's longevity and resilience, surviving the test of time. It would be prudent to establish comprehensive documentation and historical archives for such trees, detailing their ages, historical contexts, and significance in Dhaka's history. This information could be made publicly accessible, allowing residents and scholars to gain a deeper appreciation for the city's historical roots.

Guardians of Biodiversity

Beyond their historical significance, old trees in Dhaka play a pivotal role in preserving biodiversity. As urbanization relentlessly encroaches upon natural habitats, these trees provide essential refuges for various species of birds, insects, and other wildlife. Their large canopies offer shade, shelter, and sustenance to countless creatures, creating a microcosm of biodiversity within the city.

To emphasize their role in biodiversity conservation, Dhaka could establish urban wildlife corridors and green belts, connecting pockets of greenery through which wildlife can move. These corridors would promote genetic diversity among species, reducing the risk of inbreeding and enhancing the overall health of local ecosystems.

Old trees also contribute significantly to air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis. This process helps combat air pollution, making Dhaka a healthier place to live. Moreover, their root systems help prevent soil erosion and filter rainwater, ensuring the city's water resources remain clean and sustainable. Urban planners should integrate these ecological services into the city's environmental policies and sustainability goals.

Mitigating the Urban Heat Island Effect

Dhaka, like many other densely populated cities, experiences the urban heat island effect, wherein urban areas become significantly warmer than surrounding rural regions due to human activities and construction. This phenomenon has dire consequences, including increased energy consumption, heat-related health issues, and the exacerbation of climate change.

Old trees serve as natural air conditioners for the city. Their dense foliage provides shade and reduces surface temperatures, making urban areas more habitable. This cooling effect can lower energy consumption, reduce the demand for air conditioning, and alleviate the strain on the city's power grid during scorching summer months. In essence, conserving old trees is a sustainable strategy to combat the urban heat island effect, making Dhaka more livable and eco-friendly.

To further address this issue, urban planners should incorporate green infrastructure into the city's development plans. This includes the strategic planting of trees in urban areas and the creation of green spaces that facilitate cooling through shade and evaporative cooling. Dhaka could also explore innovative solutions such as green roofs and vertical gardens to maximize the benefits of greenery in densely populated areas.

Cultural Significance

The cultural importance of old trees in Dhaka cannot be overstated. These trees are not merely biological entities but are deeply intertwined with the city's traditions, rituals, and folklore. Many old trees serve as sacred sites for religious ceremonies and cultural events, adding a spiritual dimension to Dhaka's urban fabric.

For instance, the centuries-old Bodhi tree at the Dhakeshwari Temple is revered by Hindus as a symbol of enlightenment. Similarly, the Tamarind tree in the courtyard of the Lalbagh Fort holds historical and cultural significance. These trees have become integral parts of the city's identity and are essential in maintaining its cultural heritage.

To promote cultural preservation through tree conservation, Dhaka could organize cultural festivals and events at these significant tree sites. Educational programs and guided tours can also be offered to residents and tourists to increase awareness of the cultural and historical value of these trees. By actively involving local communities in the celebration and protection of these trees, their cultural significance can be further amplified.

Enhancing Aesthetics and Quality of Life

Old trees contribute significantly to Dhaka's aesthetics, making the cityscape more attractive and inviting. Their majestic presence softens the harsh urban environment, providing a sense of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle. The sight of these trees, with their sprawling canopies and gnarled trunks, serves as a visual relief from the concrete jungle, promoting a sense of well-being among the city's inhabitants.

Moreover, these trees offer recreational opportunities. Parks and green spaces adorned with old trees provide residents with places to relax, exercise, and connect with nature. These green oases are essential for maintaining the physical and mental health of Dhaka's residents, particularly in a fast-paced urban environment.

Dhaka could invest in the creation and maintenance of urban parks that showcase the city's old trees. These parks can serve as green lungs within the city, offering residents a respite from urban stressors. Additionally, integrating walking and cycling paths within these parks would promote a healthier and more sustainable mode of transportation.

Challenges to Conservation

Despite their undeniable importance, old trees in Dhaka face numerous challenges to their preservation. Rapid urbanization, unchecked construction, and the expanding infrastructure of the city often lead to the indiscriminate removal of trees to make way for new buildings and roads. Additionally, pollution, disease, and neglect can threaten the health and vitality of these ancient sentinels.

To address these challenges, Dhaka must prioritize the protection of old trees in its urban planning and development policies. This could involve revising zoning regulations to include mandatory setbacks for old trees, ensuring that construction projects do not encroach upon their root zones. Furthermore, city authorities should conduct regular health assessments of these trees and implement measures to mitigate disease and pest infestations.

Community engagement is vital in overcoming these challenges. Local residents and organizations can play a critical role in advocating for tree preservation, reporting illegal tree removals, and participating in tree care and maintenance efforts. Establishing a dedicated hotline or reporting system for tree-related issues would facilitate community involvement in tree conservation.

Conservation Efforts and Strategies

To ensure the continued existence of old trees in Dhaka, concerted efforts are required at multiple levels. Here are some strategies and initiatives that can help preserve these invaluable assets:

Public Awareness and Education

Educating the public about the importance of old trees is crucial. Awareness campaigns, workshops, and school programs can help instill a sense of responsibility and pride in preserving Dhaka's natural heritage.

Legal Protections

Enacting and enforcing laws and regulations that protect old trees from indiscriminate removal and damage is essential. Designating certain trees as heritage trees and imposing penalties for their destruction can act as deterrents.

Tree Inventory and Monitoring

Creating a comprehensive inventory of old trees in Dhaka and regularly monitoring their health and condition can help identify and address issues early on. This data can also aid in conservation planning. The establishment of a tree census could be an ongoing project, engaging volunteers and experts to continually update and assess the health of Dhaka's old trees.

Community Engagement

Involving local communities in tree conservation efforts can foster a sense of ownership and stewardship. Community-driven initiatives such as tree planting, maintenance, and protection can go a long way in preserving old trees. Dhaka could establish community tree care groups that work in collaboration with city authorities to ensure the well-being of these trees.

Urban Planning

Integrating old trees into urban planning is essential. City planners should consider the presence of old trees when designing new developments, roads, and public spaces. Implementing green building standards and encouraging developers to incorporate existing trees into their designs can help strike a balance between development and conservation.

Tree Healthcare

Providing proper care and maintenance to old trees is essential. Regular pruning, fertilization, and disease management can extend the lifespan of these trees. Dhaka could establish a dedicated team of arborists and tree care professionals to oversee the well-being of old trees, ensuring they receive the care they deserve.

Green Infrastructure

Incorporating old trees into the city's green infrastructure can help combat environmental challenges such as air pollution and the urban heat island effect. City authorities should prioritize the preservation of green spaces and integrate them into the overall city planning process. Additionally, green infrastructure projects, such as urban forests and tree-lined boulevards, can be implemented to maximize the ecological benefits of old trees.

Research and Innovation

Encouraging research into the unique ecological and cultural aspects of Dhaka's old trees can provide valuable insights for conservation efforts. Funding research projects and promoting innovation in tree conservation and urban forestry can contribute to the development of effective strategies for preserving these trees.

Collaboration and Partnerships

Collaborating with environmental organizations, educational institutions, and other stakeholders can amplify conservation efforts. These partnerships can provide resources, expertise, and additional support for tree conservation initiatives.


Old trees in Dhaka are not just part of the city's past; they are living symbols of resilience and continuity. Preserving them is not a choice but a responsibility that we owe to future generations. These ancient sentinels provide ecological balance, cultural significance, and aesthetic beauty to Dhaka, making it a more livable and sustainable city. Through collective efforts, public awareness, responsible urban planning, and community engagement, we can ensure that Dhaka's old trees continue to thrive, enriching the city's heritage and environment for years to come. In their shade, we find solace, in their presence, we find a connection to our past, and in their conservation, we secure a brighter future for Dhaka. With concerted efforts, Dhaka can set an example for the world in preserving its natural and cultural heritage, ensuring that its ancient trees remain standing as living testaments to the city's history and progress.

Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Dean, Faculty of Science, Chairman, Dept. of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and Chairman, Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS). E-mail: kamrul_sub@hotmail.com; dk@stamforduniversity.edu.bd

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