Growing Forests

Organizations like Trees For Free and Hasiru Usiru are doing a commendable job of trying to enhance and protect our tree cover.

However, there is a basic contradiction in greening goals and urban landscapes - the latter is about "usage" of land - and that more in commercial terms than anything else. Everything else is secondary - and even the space legally, or voluntarily, created for trees and natural cover, is done as a major concession and something to be proud of.

Of course, it is something to be proud of. But its also something we should have realized by now that we depend on as a species - for keeping things cool, keeping the air fresh, and for keeping the water cycle going. Its not something that should be a discretionary afterthought, but the most important part of evolving urban landscapes.

Sure. But thats merely an ideal, and we're really really, really far from it.

In the hierarchy of needs and wants, the above ideal is pretty low. So while there's sporadic resistance, and occasional sparks of desire, and even action to see more green and less stone, prick, mortar and glass - its more or less a losing battle. The vocabulary is "cut as few trees as possible", or "try growing trees where it does not affect your foundations", etc. Can't blame anyone - thats how it is - and everyone's got fair reasons for it. N-thousand-per-square-foot is quite a compelling reason, more often than not. And pollution related disease and death is not that visible a counter-force. Sure the water's depleting, but our tanker guy manages to get us enough, and we're ok for now....

So ? We carry on ? What else could we do ?

So here's a whacky idea...

I've been vocalizing that the governement needs visionary goals, and one of those must be to grab back free land where available, not play the per-square-feet game, and afforest it with a manic zeal. But of course, I have little influence, and not too much hope that the government will formulate such goals and move in these directions.

Next best ? We do it. Me and you cannot go around buying too much land to afforest. But collectively, we could start building a layer of green defenses - perhaps within, and perhaps also around the city. A forest here, a green island there, maybe even an acre with a lake and a lot of trees.

A trust owns and manages the land. We legally ensure it can never be used for any other purpose. We try and ensure its marked as "forest" or "parks" in CDPs.

If 100000 people put in a 500/- each, thats a lot of forest land we could create around the city (25-30 kms away its still not that expensive). Sure there are legal hurdles, issues around policy formulation, long term goals, and financing issues. Worth a shot ? If it grows, I'm sure a few corporates would not mind pitching in.

Questions about loss of farmland and food security just in case this idea grows? Agriculture needs better techniques, innovation. As part of this effort, we can engage both for that as well as for conservation.

If 10 people respond to this, will create a mailing list, and a spreadsheet to collect "committments".

Idea? Non starter? Thoughts?

11 comments:

Jayadeep(JDP) said...

Right on Sameer - I also feel that the efforts being made by the environmental groups are inconsequential though the spirit is laudable. While we might save trees on Nanda road and Lalbagh, it is just a drop in the ocean. We need something more effective and at a larger scale that is sustainable to save the environment.

While the idea of growing forests sounds great, it is a challenge practically. I for one has been looking for some cheap land to grow coconuts, cashew and bamboo(recently added) to replenish our family farms that were sold cheaply years ago to move to urban areas.

So I am very much with you on this. But like you I have very little influence(at this point of time) to make a move in that direction.

Big Foot said...

About time for awareness to lead to action. There's a major difference between a bunch of trees planted on the roadside and a forest. If enough people mobilize in this direction I think it can be done!

I'm putting my hand up for this one.

Ezbzbee said...

If the 'crowd' in Bangalore can create such a humongous and lucrative per-sq-feet market for the Shobas, Mantris and Adarshas, I am sure the same 'crowd' can create a viable market for forests too. I can be be a 'customer' if the product is good and the rates are attractive :)

Jagannath Moorthy said...

Why not approach the BDA? They have lot of land in the city earmarked for "parks". They have chosen the worst design for them, grass that no one is allowed to walk on, concrete blocks on walking paths that wreck your knees. What if there were many mini 1-acre forests created in these plots with lots of trees? I'm sure it would gain a lot of support as people see the benefit right in their backyard.

sameer said...

BDA parks - hmm good idea. Though my guess is Trees for free would've given that a shot, or might be doing so. Those usually are long engagements.

Another possibility: Get "donations" of a couple of acres in the huge amounts of land Infy, Wipro have acquired and turn them totally raw-green.

Prashanth said...

http://www.spoorthivana.org/

Exactly the same concept. I met Eshwar Prasad (holds a honarary position there and has some good contact in the govt) one day on my way back from office commute. He was keen on getting cyclists involved. He even invited us camp @ for a night after riding to that place.

PK

PK

sameer said...

@Prashanth - thanks - great link!
Tho one fear (that they actually have tried to address in the FAQ) is that the land still belongs to the govt, and they tend to look at things differently once urbanization hits the place - now its even becoming ok to take a few trees off Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. Citizen owned land may have a different status. Sure its more expensive, but right now, am just thinking aloud.

Biju said...

Sameer,

I've always thought that a citizen-driven-n-funded initiative is the only way to get things done given they things work around here. Ofc, even a fully citizen effort needs the right people to manage it - people that have good contacts.

When you break it down to a per-person level, it is never more than a bit of pocket change for most folks. That idea doesn't get through to us easily though.

As you write, it is a possible way to sustained afforestation. My hand's up.

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Afficiando said...

Actually spot on and is the need of the hour. I have also read in papers that BBMP has marked about 5 properties on the outskirts fo almost 200 acres each for nurturing them into mini forests to make up for tree cuts in the city!! Its just "ok" but lot can be done by citizens.

sameer said...

Thats awesome news! 5 200 acre mini forests are a step in the righ direction. Refs/links?