Green is the colour of life

Urban forests: Green Saviours in Belagavi has been creating green spaces in the city and neighbouring places in collaboration with like-mined people.

Green is the colour of life
Words like resilience, survival, mortality, little ones and nurture dot the conversation with Sameer Majli, as we discuss the activities of Green Saviours, a group he founded through social media in 2016. Green Saviours is a non-registered group of people who passionately believe that planting more trees and nurturing them are the best ways to develop green spaces in any city. Considered as the lungs of urban areas, these spaces improve the microclimate of the city.

When the rains failed in the past few years in Belagavi, Sameer realised the need to revive the local ecology. He felt that even small efforts can contribute positively to the environment. A random appeal on social media led to responses from various like-minded people. That was how Green Saviours began its journey. The team studied the factors affecting natural environs of the city, and decided to plant  trees to improve the climatic condition. Thus began a series of plantation drives in the city.

The first 25 trees of the initiative were planted at Bharatesh College in the city. Since then, the team has been planting saplings every Sunday and the number of such plantation drives has reached 50.

Initially, when they found it difficult to get the saplings, the Forest Department pitched in by providing free saplings. The department provides plants like champaka, jackfruit, Indian cherry, neem and java plum trees. The team consciously chooses a good mix of fruiting and flowering trees. 

Gradually, the team swelled and the members crossed 125. Some of the members lost their interest after a while. Now the effort has 100 members.

Miyawaki method
Pooling resources and getting the right kind of places for planting trees have not troubled the team so far. While people volunteer, the tools and equipment required for the work is bought using the donations from members and philanthropists.

The team started planting in the peak of the summer of 2016 and continued throughout the year. Apart from planting  saplings, the team has also given importance to nurturing them and maintaining the plots. As a result, the survival rate of plants in these patches is about 80%.

While the Green Saviours team continued with their plantation drives of about a 100 trees every drive, planted at a distance of 10 to 15 feet, a well-wisher opined that at this rate, they would not make much of a difference to the local ecology.

How much effort would it take to actually touch the ecosystem? It was then they were introduced to the Miyawaki Method of Afforestation. Propagated by Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist who specialises in seeds and the study of natural forests, the method advocates the planting of indigenous trees that eventually form a part of the primary forest of that area. The method focuses on dense plantation of diverse native plants, and it can be done in  available spaces in the cities. Eventually, the plot develops into a biodiversity zone.

After learning about the method, the Green Saviours team decided to create mini forests in Belagavi and regenerate local ecology. The first such ‘forest plantation’ was done recently on an experimental plot. 

How would they get all these large numbers of saplings that such a forest would need? The Forest Department is equipped to provide about 50,000 saplings per year. Some drives have also seen forest officers and guards accompanying to see and participate in the work. Once the pace of the plantation drive is set, now the team is trying to increase the plant diversity. So the plan is to source the saplings from any available source, even if it means they have to pay for it.

Participants are happy about the opportunity the initiative provides for them to know about the environment and act towards reviving it. “It gives immense pleasure to plant and contribute for a healthier environment. Also, Green Saviours introduced me to like-minded people from various backgrounds,” says Krishna Diwani, a student in Belagavi. “It always feels good to work in a team. It is a nice way to share knowledge, learn from each other and create awareness on the issues that are important to us. I am sure the initiative will continue involving more number of people,” another student, Siddharth Mehta, shares his experience.

Participatory approach
The team has documented every drive and share the reports and experiences on social media. As a result, the initiative has inspired people living near and far. While nearby people come and join hands, enthusiasts from Bengaluru and Sangli have contacted them to know more about the team’s work. 

The team fondly recalls the experience at the Maharshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde High School in Ranakundaye, Belagavi, where two students were assigned for each tree planted in the school premises. The students took their task so seriously that when water was not available in the school, they brought water in bottles from home every day to water the plants .

One can join the team’s plantation drives  by visiting their Facebook page, Green Saviours - the Venugram project. To know more, visit www.greensaviours.org or email at greensaviours2016@gmail.com.

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