Someone from a club i am associated with has been instrumental in creating a small patch of what is called ‘the Miyawaki forest’ in a public park within city limits, pumping a little more oxygen into poisoned Chennai airs. That set me thinking.
Akira Miyawaki, the Japanese botanist, thought of this great idea of greening in bits and parcels wherever and whenever, creating tiny sustainable forests of native vegetation.
The Harrington road, the Spurtank Road, Shastri Bhavan road and even the Boat club as I remember from my school days are a far cry from the parched reality we have been calling our capital today. We chopped down trees in our own home. My in-laws place had at least two coconut trees, four Ashoka trees in the front and banana, mango trees and greens and flowering plants in the backyard quarter a century back. My parents surrounded their dream house with seven coconut trees, neem, mango and curry leaf trees etc. Not a trace of that green foliage exists today. Not only did we cut down the trees, we also cemented the ground so that monsoon downpour has no chance of percolating underneath the sedimentary topsoil layer, blocking any rainwater retention for ground water-table rise and moisture content. That is how good old Madras transformed into the concrete jungle we live in today as destructive transformation such as ours in every homefront changed the city for worse, polluting our waters and airs forever. Any breathing space was converted into spare bedroom without a thought.
That brings to my mind the lungs of the city our public parks and the dried up lakebeds, that metamorphed into housing colonies and private estates including lucrative professional institutions.
Green cover is shrinking at an alarming pace not only in our metro, but in entire India as the pressure on land is increasing steadily with elephant corridors and even the protected scheduled forest areas taken over for industrialization and/or urbanization. The promised afforestation is not happening. We cannot take over prime and secondary forests and then try to substitute them with tree saplings along river banks by way of compense or like an afterthought. Things simply don’t work that way. Native vegetation cannot be replaced by foreign species even if that could be teak. Teak cannot stand for neem or banyan. (By foreign, here is meant anything not local or native geographically to a particular area. In India, localization may be as specific as a district or state.)
But the little bit of greenery that caught my attention in city roads by way of kind of vertical gardening made me wonder if this is Miyawaki forest attempt as well! Other cities like Bangalore are far ahead in trying to infuse little of oxygen into atmosphere compared to Chennai, I know, but somewhere we have to have a beginning.
Terrace gardens are another big way to go green, even if that may fall far below desired level of greening. We have to remember that trees have to be replaced by trees and not with mere potted plants that do not root out and trap moisture in soil. Our city must have native neem, mango, peepal or the sacred fig, banyan and ashoka trees planted more not merely the aesthetically appealing flame-of-the-forests for street side shade.
Gardening is no more a leisure activity, it is our dire necessity. Forestry is our basic requirement today. There is an ongoing debate on commercial forests about which I am skeptical as it can encourage more prime-secondary forests falling prey to development agenda. Native vegetation also may come under threat with commercially viable alien species becoming popular choice.
I am resident of an Arab country where they are greening their arid landscapes expending millions of dollars that the city I live in middle east seems far more greener than the city I come from in India. From transplanting Amazon trees to virtual desert lands to creating fresh water lagoons from the sparse drizzle that hardly graces these parched limestone terrains, the locals and government go out of their way to ensure a little quality oxygen content in their airs, which is admirable. For this, we have to love nature first, we have to care for our environment. We have to love and respect our country first as well. We must cringe at damaging and destructing mother nature as we do in India so ruthlessly. Alas, in India, we have government and gurus who happen to think economic progress and God can be found by deforesting and industrializing, what do we do!
Let each and everyone of us at micro range create our own little Miyawaki today that at macro level we can bring in a transformation in India over a period of time. We read of inspiring stories of how individuals raise forests, sustain vegetation and preserve waterbodies even in India. It is time we do our bit to giving back to Mother Earth what we have taken from Her.
A typical Miyawaki we have already been having in Hindu temples by way of ‘stala vrksha’ – the native tree and vegetation for centuries. The concept is really not entirely new to us. All we need to do is expand from here by and large to cover more and more tracts with greenery.