NGO embarks on 'Million trees project'

NGO embarks on 'Million trees project'

Karnataka at present has just 20 per cent forest cover as against the minimum of 35 per cent required to maintain ecological balance due to unprecedented growth.

The NGO, Eco-watch, has embarked on a three phased programme to achieve its objective -  planting indigenous species of trees near Doddaballapur to enrich the biodiversity, protecting the Western Ghats, and enriching the 'eco-tone' belt,  a 200 KM transitional zone from Ranebennur to Belgaum, Suresh Heblikar, founder of Eco Watch said.

The project at Doddaballapur, where indigenous species would be planted in 500 acres was very critical for rebuilding urban ecosystems, he said.

The Western Ghats, being a global diversity hotspot, needs to be protected at all costs and so Eco watch  was identifying and collecting rare and critically endangered species and planting them in the Vishvesvaraya University Technological campus. "This will gradually be established into a tropical gene bank to help conserve these species and aid in propagating them further," he said.

So far, about 270 species had been identified and planted under various blocks like medicinal plants garden, Butterfly Park, Sacred Garden, Nectar Park and Natural forest block, Heblikar said.

The NGO has also planted about 1000 trees at Alnavar, Haliyal in Dharward district and Ramdurg in Belgaum district, falling in the foothills of the Western Ghats, where the Sharavathi and Kali rivers together help produce 7,000 MW of power, he said.

The third important component of the project is to enrich the eco-tone belt, also known as 'food bowl' of Karnataka, where three types of ecosystems - grasslands, forests, lakes and ponds converge -- by planting trees and educating people about the maintenance of the belt, he said.

Karnataka University's extension wing at Belgaum, spanning 30-40 acres, has sought the assistance of Eco-Watch to plant trees in the region. "We also plan to establish a biodiversity park on 20 acres of land given to us by JSS Vidyapeeth in Dharwad, he said.

Heblikar said Eco-Watch proposed to undertake a  pilot project 'Bioshielding or Green Barrier' at Kumta in Uttara Kannada district as part of its plan to to protect coastal areas, facing sea erosion due to indiscriminate sand mining from beaches for construction.

Sand dunes from these beaches have been over exploited leading to increased sea erosion and salt water intrusion into nearby villages.

The only way to mitigate the problem was by reintroducing native vegetation on the sea coast and allowing regeneration of certain medicinal plants, to help in formation of sand dunes over a period of time, Heblikar said,

This would help adjacent villagers and livelihood, protect the coastal belt and create employment opportunities for local community members, he said.

The million trees project is supported by corporates like Intel, Deutsche Bank, SAP Labs and Oracle, among others.

Heblikar hopes these steps would go a long way in bringing about a balance in the environment and increase the forest cover in Karnataka.

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