Teachers, students convert 16 acres of rock into green land

Teachers, students convert 16 acres of rock into green land

Teachers, students convert 16 acres of rock into green land

The Sathya Narayana (SN) High School, a government aided school at Perla, on Karnataka-Kerala border, has recorded a virtually unimaginable thing by creating a 16 acre of impressive forest out of a barren solid rocky land.

To convert this, ‘crazy’ idea into a reality, under the aegis of SN Nature club, they took 15 long years. Now, the forest at SN school boasts of more than 5,000 plants with 500 different species. What more one can see is the magic of nature here, where rock breaks away making way to soil by the pressure of taproots of the tree.
“We started the process of making a green hill here by forming a Nature club in 1998.

Locals mocked at us that nothing green could survive in the hard bed of black top laterite rock here. Every monsoon we used to plant hundreds of saplings here and they would all die,” recalls President of the Nature Club and biology teacher of the school, Umesh K. After this bitter experience, they noticed small fissures on the rock surface and began to put saplings there. They got saplings from Karnataka Forest department and some of them grew. At this time, six teachers of the school were all going to retire. Younger teachers requested them to sponsor a plant each for Rs 300. The money was used to build enclosures for the new plants so that goats wandering around wouldn’t chew them up.

When the school used to reopen after the weekend, teachers and students with broken heart found that many of their new plants were uprooted. Then, there was the goat menace. If some plants sprouted, neighbours would cut them for green manure. Finally, teachers decided to put cylindrical enclosures with mesh around the saplings, but thieves stole the mesh to sell it as scrap.

White cement idea

Disappointed over the condition, yet not willing to put up, teachers stumbled upon a novel idea. They decided to protect the plants with plastic bags coated with white cement. This worked. Nobody was interested in picking up used plastic bags. The plants were finally safe.

“The small fissures on the surface of rock will have soil in them that can support plants. Also we cashed in on a few natural pits where planting could be done. These have a very thin layer of soil. But plants can survive here,” says S Venugopal, a teacher.

Once one group of plants began to grow, they formed an undercover of grass and small herbs beneath. When dry leaves began to fall, the soil forming on the ground becomes rich in nutrients. At this point, members of Nature Club planted mango and cashew saplings in the natural shelter created by the smaller group of plants.

Change in biodiversity

“After we put up the forest, the school well never dried up. Since five or six years the well had at least two meter water level even in April,” points out Umesh. He also claims that after the afforestation process, the water-level in the wells of neighbourhood increased and never a borewell or ordinary well dug nearby ends up without finding water.

“We also found more presence of honeybees, frogs and other insects here. It has been a paradigm change in terms of biodiversity,” says  Umesh, who has been spearheading the green movement and is also an alumni of the school.

The successful afforestation has inspired the school to raise a vegetable garden. In the last two years, students and teachers have grown a few vegetables during the monsoon. Dozens of amla plants have been planted.

“I think over the years, we must have planted at least 10,000 plants. Finally, around 10 per cent have survived. But looking back, we are all contended,” says a beaming Umesh.