Green lessons from the past

Green lessons from the past

Activities of greenery expansion in Bengaluru gained a great momentum in the eighties when Greenbelt Forest Division (now known as Bengaluru Urban Forest Division) was formed by the government.

Main agenda of the Division was a massive plantation drive.  The main reason behind this drive was the disappearance of a majority of the trees that were planted in the past. After the assessment of ground realities, the  the pitfalls of earlier tree planting efforts in the City became clear.

To deal with the crisis, the first and foremost requirement was to acquire adequate saplings. As an immediate step, several nurseries were established to raise plants. We found out that planted dwarf saplings were eaten away by roaming Holstein Fraser cows of the City. Keeping the height of these cows in mind, we planted tailor-made saplings. Our ingenious plan worked and the cows who were 2 meters tall couldn’t reach the modified saplings. The problem of cattle menace was solved.

The tree-guards provided by the corporations in the past were barely three meters in height and were not effective in protecting the growing saplings. These RCC tree guards at a cost of Rs 650 each, took a major chunk of the budget meant for planting saplings. We developed a cost effective tree-guard, by covering four wooden poles with chicken mesh which cost just Rs 25 each.

This saved a substantial sum of money and also became a standard practice in the years to come. It was later on adopted by other states too.

Community effort

Though the Project was initiated by the State Government, we decided to ensure public participation in the project to make it effective. An awareness campaign was initiated to keep them informed. Citizens were invited to give their choice and suggestions regarding the type of trees they wanted to be planted in their areas considering their canopy, height, flower colours, foliage etc.

Local campaigning was done to involve the public. Many trees were planted by them in their streets, gardens and parks. They were given varieties of plants free of cost along with tree-guards.

Accessible tree banks

Since the central nurseries were located away from the majority of the population, tree-banks were established in places like JP Nagar, Jayanagar, Koramangala, Indiranagar, Mahalakshmipuram, Vijayanagar, RT Nagar and other places. Saplings and tree guards were distributed free of cost to those visiting the tree-banks. Trucks loaded with tall saplings were sent to various localities so that the public could avail them when required.

Saplings were sent on requisition for mass planting activities organised by the public. These activities were held in various localities involving public, students, NGOs, ministers, MLAs, Members of Parliament and municipal corporators.

All roads, parks, open areas in government campuses, offices, playgrounds, burial places, schools ,colleges, University, Military Head Quarters and slum areas were covered. Dead plants were replaced immediately and all efforts were made to ensure a hundred percent result. The planted saplings were nurtured for the next three years, until they could fend for themselves.

To involve public in protecting saplings, some novel ideas were launched for the first time in the country like appointment of ‘Honorary Tree-Wardens.’ These wardens were tree lovers drawn  from all walks of life including students, teachers, professors, doctors, engineers, professionals, politicians, journalists and corporators. These wardens were given identity cards and quarterly meetings were convened to discuss steps to be taken and to obtain their feedback.

Common problems

At a location in Indiranagar, the saplings planted were often damaged by the school children during their playtime. To resolve this, we proposed a joint tree-planting drive with the students. The proposal was accepted and many trees were planted all along the road to the school. The children planted their own saplings and took keen interest in protecting them setting a model for other schools. 

In crowded areas like Anandarao Circle in Gandhinagar and Majestic adjoining Chickpet, where people are on the move for almost over 20 hours in a day, planting had to be done only after midnight. Hence, planting was done in the wee hours by taking tree-planting paraphernalia in trucks along with tree guards and labourers with water to the saplings.

The entire work would be completed before 5 in the morning so as to not disrupt the usual local business. Since it was a traffic-intensive road, saplings of greater heights (4-6metres) were planted to lessen the extent of damage caused by the moving crowds and vehicles. After the midnight plantation drive, people were pleasantly surprised to see the fresh look on their streets.

A massive tree planting programme was also conducted in the entire City to involve college and school children to instill an interest among them about conservation efforts. The event attracted political leaders too. At the end of this programme, 25,000 saplings were planted.

The tree planting programmes carried out from 1982-1987 at Bengaluru were such a grand success that the Central Government took notice of it and honoured it with Indira Priyadarshini Award. Even the Director of Horticulture visited Bengaluru and collected a variety of saplings.

Truckloads of saplings raised here were transported to New Delhi and were planted at the Shakti Sthal, where former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is laid to rest. Looking at the huge success of such green drives in Bengaluru, urban tree planting was included in the subsequent Five Year Plans.

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