A tree for every occasion

A tree for every occasion

Green Memories

A tree for every occasion

Ways of commemorating a milestone or a solemn occasion in one’s life is evolving. For environment enthusiasts, it means planting a sapling and nurturing it. Spoorthivana is gradually pioneering this concept, writes Deepika Nidige

 Celebrations are not only an integral part of Indian lives, but also a long-followed tradition. And such celebrations have always meant pomp, show and joy, with extravagant expenditure. An investment many see as a fruitless one. People have wondered if they were ever better ways to remember good moments in life and make a lasting memory of it. Sometime in 2001, a group of environment enthusiasts had an ingenious idea about how we could translate this happiness into a good deed. And thus was born, Spoorthivana, a forest of inspiration.

Lush vegetation

Spread across 300 acres of land, located at the confluence of Kumudvathi (from Shivgange) and Arkavathi (from Nandi) rivers, right at Thippagondanahalli reservoir, Spoorthivana was the brainchild of Eshwar Prasad and his team. It was designed as a home for trees which can be planted anytime by anyone, who wishes to contribute their two cents to the environment. People are encouraged to do so on significant days of their life, a constructive way of channelling one’s energy and resources.

Spoorthivana first took form in the year 2005. But the idea had existed in different forms. In 1987, Nagesh Hegde, one of the key people in the founding of Spoorthivana, wrote about an initiative called Smruthivana in Pune. It was a similar concept, where, people came to plant a tree when someone dear to them passed away. It was a mark of respect for the departed as well as a reverent way to remember them. Inspired by this, the idea was given a shot in Mysuru. But it did not see much success as people did not embrace the idea wholeheartedly.

After Mysuru, the urge to recreate the idea successfully was still resting with Eshwar Prasad. He wanted to educate people about global warming and increase awareness about the environment. So efforts were put in again to recreate the project. In 2005, a group of interested individuals, with similar ideologies about the environment, approached the Karnataka government to ask for land to begin this project. They did not however ask for ownership, but only the government’s support.

Obtaining the land they had identified at Thippagondanahalli Reservoir in Magadi, Ramanagar district, was an uphill task. After months of negotiations, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), who originally owned the land, granted permission to convert the barren land into an afforestation venue. Spoorthivana was finally inaugurated on June 26, 2005.

How the project began is rather interesting. The team collected data and statistics from various wedding halls across Bengaluru and found that, on an average, five lakh activities happen on an annual basis. The idea was that, even if a small fraction of these people planted a tree to mark their celebration, it would make a remarkable difference to the environment. So they went about spreading the message, asking citizens to be nava nagarikaru by becoming more eco-friendly. No other publicity was part of their campaign. The team just spread information about their initiative through word of mouth.

Eco-friendly celebration

And since then, almost across a decade, about 5,000 trees have been planted in this 300-acre expanse. Its working is simple: people contact Spoorthivana on special occasions like birthdays, wedding anniversaries or even an unhappy event like death, and convey their willingness to plant a sapling. The saplings are then obtained from the nursery of the Forest department. They generally plant varieties that are native to India, like jackfruit, mango, Indian blackberry (nerale), avenue tree (honge) etc.
Planters don’t get a say in the kind of sapling to be planted. “About 4-5 years ago, my husband and I, along with our kids, went to Spoorthivana for our 25th wedding anniversary. We planted two saplings, one each in the name of our children. We thought it would be an novel way to look at our children through trees,” says Asha Hegde.

But the relationship does not end with the planting. A few people come back to visit the place after few years and see how their plant has blossomed over time. But not all of them are fortunate enough to witness it. Some saplings wither away and some of them are eaten by livestock. In such cases, the saplings or seeds are replanted.

This is a common problem, says Eshwar Prasad. While some plants grow steadily over the years, some of them are lost a few months after they’re planted. The forest is maintained by two labourers who stay onsite. They assist in the watering and manuring of plants. The plants need water only in their initial growth stages. Rainfall takes care of their subsequent water needs.

Spoorthivana also has to protect its premises from all kinds of troubles. One big trouble lies in the neighbourhood villages, where locals get their cows and goats to graze in the premises. In this process, grass and saplings are either eaten or destroyed. To solve this issue, dried grass is set on fire as the newly emerging grass serves as delicious fodder for sheep. But awareness and warnings have not done much to keep intruders away. But some villagers claim otherwise. “We know that this is a protected and private area. We don’t go anywhere near it,” said Muniyappa.

Despite the troubles and difficulties, Spoorthivana is a treat to the eyes, with greenery all around. It is self-sufficient, in that, there is no active watering that is required. “Although people know that afforestation is important, they do not have the opportunity or the resources to do it. This, however, is like a platform for them to contribute to nature,” says Vijay Gore, a retired IAS officer and president of Spoorthivana.

Need for greater attention

But there are few people who know about it, even though it is very close to Bengaluru. Madhusudan and Smitha, who had come along with their eight-year-old son to plant a sapling for his birthday were quite taken with the place. “I chanced upon this organisation on the Internet. That was when we decided to do it,” said Madhusudan. It costs Rs 1,500 to plant a tree at Spoorthivana.

Villagers and residents around the reservoir too are all praises for Spoorthivana. Says Radha, a shopkeeper right outside, “I was born and raised here. I have lived here all my life and I have seen its growth. These people are doing a commendable job. Thanks to all the trees, the air is cooler around here. Now, I too feel inspired to plant a sapling for myself,” she says.

The key people who contributed to the progress of Spoorthivana find the need for the concept to be replicated. They hope that more people will pick up on the idea and implement it in other parts of Karnataka. Almost a decade after its inception, Spoorthivana seems to be achieving its purpose gradually – inspiring people to spread greenery, by being a part of it.

Contact Spoorthivana at www.spoorthivana.org.