A cradle for green babies

A saree is draped over nature. Trees, bamboo groves and leaves camouflage huge buildings. Cool breeze offsets the scorching daylight heat. Hundreds of flowers offer a veritable feast to the eyes. The cries of parakeets, mynas, bulbuls and kingfishers pierce the misty, early morning silence... This is the picture that greets a visitor to the campus of software company SAP Labs at Whitefield, Bangalore.

Only 20 per cent of the 20-acre campus houses buildings. The rest is used up by a mini forest, a rain forest, a fountain, scores of trees, little parks and gardens and above all, a green canopy of cherry trees. The campus is totally eco-friendly, inside out. Built on the lines of Malnad dwellings, these glass structures have plenty of light and air streaming in. The eco-friendly glass used in constructing these buildings readily absorb the harsh sun’s heat making it cool inside allowing some respite to the airconditioners. “The buildings were constructed in a modern, yet eco-friendly manner,” explains manager Rathnam Balasubramanya.

Potted plants surround each cubicle as employees go about their tasks. With abundant natural air and sunlight streaming in, there is no question of the plants losing their colour. There’s staff dedicated to the upkeep of these “green babies”. They check the air inside the cubicles daily. Even the employees have felt that working in such surroundings has not affected them adversely. Several noted personalities who visited the campus over the years have left their mark behind, planting young trees.

And so you have trees planted by former president APJ Abdul Kalam, cricketer Virender Sehwag, former Lokayukta Justice (retd) Santosh N Hegde and Narayana Murthy of the Infosys etc growing big and bearing fruit and flowers. The campus resounds with bird calls amidst various trees and plants.  Around 50 species of birds fly in and out of the campus, feasting on the insects and very small prey on the trees, shrubs and grass. SAP Labs has appointed Dr Krishna, an ornithologist as a consultant, just to create an avian-friendly atmosphere on the campus. There are two avid bird watchers on the company rolls as well. Together, these three have brought out a book “Experience the Wonders of Nature”, which contains photographs and the correct identity of several birds and which is published by the company.

Around two years back, the lawn in front of the building would be trimmed regularly. Now, the grass is allowed to grow as per Dr Krishna’s suggestion. Which has led to rain water seeping underground, keeping the earth damp and allowing insects to thrive and provide ready meals for the birds. In short, a “food chain” has been established at the campus. There’s water available round the clock, there are trees to roost on or sit with companions. There’s also plenty of shrubs and the like to build nests and bring up young ones. “You won’t believe it. The birds move around as freely as the employees in the campus,” avers facilities head Lakshman.

The campus houses 6,500-7,000 employees who use the free canteen which churns out a minimum of 400 kilograms of food waste daily. It is then mixed with garden waste to make compost. Daily, around 70-80 kg of high quality organic manure are produced to be used in the garden. Whatever is left is distributed free of cost to employees; SAP Labs encourages its employees to grow kitchen gardens back home as well. At the campus, it is heartening to observe hordes of bees swarming the blooming fragrant flowers. According to experts, bees do not usually come near any plant that’s sprayed with insecticide. If they do, they don’t survive.

Not only this, the company bears 75 per cent of the cost of purchasing electric cars. Charger centres are set up around the campus and more than 40 employees have availed this facility. With this, people have been able to check environmental pollution as well as save money on petrol.

Boarding and lodging for birds, feast for the bees, poison-less food for the plants along with rides in electric cars around the campus–it’s a green haven out there.

(Translated by B S Srivani)

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