This Sunday, Hasiru Santhe, a tree mela at Sankey Tank, was organised for the first time by BBMP. With plant and tree saplings selling at Rs 2, it got local residents and morning walkers around the area interested. Not withstanding the noisy announcements by BBMP staff and the disorganised billing system, the response was overwhelming from thousands of visitors.
The event took place at a time when many Bangaloreans are concerned about the reducing tree cover in the city. At the same time, government bodies and citizens are actively engaged in planting more trees too.
Government agencies do their bit
Within the city limits, BBMP is responsible for maintaining and upgrading parks, planting and transplanting trees. BBMP states they planted many varieties of saplings at various locations in 2008-09 including 5,000 Pongamia and Jatropa trees.
BBMP’s Green Bangalore Initiative has been allotted Rs 148.50 crore (double the previous budget’s allocation). The activities planned include developing 290 parks, and creating tree parks in six locations.
M R Suresh, Tree and Forest Officer, Bangalore North and East zone (Ph: 94806 83127) handling tree planting and management, specifies that while BBMP plans tree planting during the monsoon, it is willing to do it if citizens request for it any time. His Bangalore South and West zone counterpart is Venkateshappa (Ph: 94806 83842).
BDA also maintains nurseries and gardens. Their budget document mentions an estimation of Rs 70 lakh for 2009-10.
Karnataka Forest Department are responsible for afforestation and forest/plantation management. The District Forest Conservators, Range Forest Officers (RFO), or silviculturists can provide technical information to anyone interested in planting trees. The department also has nurseries where one can obtain seedlings.
The Karnataka State Horticulture Department’s primary functions include developing/maintaining all major gardens (like Cubbon Park, Lalbagh) in Bangalore and rest of Karnataka.
Citizen groups and organisations play a stellar role in tree planting
Bangalore also boasts of a large number of citizens groups and individuals engaging actively in planting saplings, often for free across the city. Although the replacement rate may not match the loss, volunteers of Green Code has planted thousands of saplings on the city outskirts (like the Bangalore University) and other parts of Karnataka. Green Code is a Environmental Defence Initiative by Civil Defence Wardens (a.k.a. Home Guards) of Bangalore City.
Treesforfree (TFF) planted 500 saplings on the JP Nagar Ring Road median in 2008-’09 while Let’s Integrate For Environment (LIFE) planted 350 trees at Jadegenahalli in 2008.
Citizen Matters spoke to Swapna B, LIFE co-founder, ShivAnand, Nodal Officer (Hon.) handling Green Code projects, Sheshadri Ramaswamy and Nagarajan Krishnamurthy, both Hasiru Usiru’s forestry group volunteers, and TFF’s founder, Janet Yegneswaran.
These groups are all not-for-profit, and work voluntarily, mainly during weekends and holidays often along with other community groups. They aim to promote a healthy environment by conserving/restoring trees.
LIFE or call 99022 00441
Green Code or sms to 98866 25679 as: "JOIN ARTOFSAVING"
Treesforfree or call 98454 49703
Hasiru Usiru or call Sheshadri Ramaswamy at 98455-68182
Some have regular campaigns/events (every month or two) to educate citizens on the importance trees, urging and supporting them in planting and caring for saplings.
These groups also go beyond tree planting activities. Hasiru Usiru organises ‘Tree Walks’ for identifying and studying trees. Green Code is trying to create a database of persons interested in planting trees including their contact details, target location and number. It plans to initiate window gardening, where a boat shaped container can be hooked on the windows or grills and packaged with vermiculture/potting mixture/coir/succulents/petunia seeds.
When and where are saplings planted?
Hasiru Usiru has worked with the Home Guards in large tree planting events. They is also keen on planting smaller numbers in open grounds inside the city. LIFE concentrates on neighbourhoods in and near Bangalore during the monsoon. TFF currently plants throughout the year if shown the place, often within a 30 km radius from the city centre but go beyond when invited.
Which are the target communities and how do you approach, educate and support them?
Beginning with door-to-door canvassing and a human chain on MG Road inviting people to join ‘The Plantathon’, Treesforfree now regularly has stalls in schools and firms.
LIFE initiates informal discussions on the environment with the young and old in schools, offices and large residential buildings with follow up practical sessions as required. At public events like the Namma Jathre, it distributes free saplings.
How and where do you acquire saplings?
Hasiru Usiru gets them from forest and private nurseries choosing endemics/native species that are best suited for local rainfall, soil humidity etc. avoiding exotic species and large trees (especially when they are planned for roadside, under electric lines).
LIFE usually buys at least 25 saplings usually from the KFD nursery averaging about 150-200 saplings per planting activity. The price increases from Rs 3 to Rs 20 per sapling with age and type of tree and Rs 40 and Rs 100 for bamboo and metallic tree guards respectively. LIFE prefers Honge (Pongemia pinotta) as it needs less attention, less water for growth and is not eaten by animals while it also gives more oxygen making it ideal for planting along the road side. It encourages bird and bee attracting trees in schools. They avoid species which require no clearance for felling, and ornamental and commercial varieties like eucalyptus, coconut, areca nut, etc.
TFF plants fruit trees as well as avenue trees whether inside compounds or on the roadside.
Who maintains the planted saplings?
For saplings in public places, the groups request local residents and volunteers to water them. Swapna mentions that for private planting, they ensure that a gardener or employees take care with them visiting occasionally. In schools, they encourage each student to adopt a tree and prefer the monsoon period as trees grow well and need lesser maintenance. Janet says that they plant trees for those who are ready to nurture them irrespective of the season.
Do you partner with any particular organisation(s)/institution(s) or have any sponsors?
The groups don’t have specific partners, sponsors, etc. and carry the equipment and expenses themselves. LIFE tries to support campaigns and events of other groups working on the issues of environment, development and education. For large events, it accepts donations for buying and transporting saplings, water and education materials.
TFF says individuals and institutions contribute Rs 100 per sapling for anniversaries, etc. and they also raise money through Tree Planting gift vouchers. Green Code has successfully collaborated with various like minded government and non-profit organisations and activists on different projects.
How can one assist you – by spreading awareness, contributing time/money/resources and/or any other manner?
Swapna says, “Volunteers buy saplings from nurseries, follow up on previous plantings, create posters and banners for events and also assist with tree plantation surveys”. TFF’s volunteers handle communication, accounting and have provided sapling storage space within the city as the Forest Department doesn’t sell them throughout the year.
Shiv Anand has a final request, “Identify planting spots and inform us.” ⊕