The grim reality is that a place like Bengaluru, blessed with abundant rainfall and fertile land has its green cover completely neglected. So much so, that a report by the Indian Institute of Science states that, the green cover in Bengaluru has reduced by 88 percent from 1973 to 2017.
On the other hand, we have Vijayapura district, also in Karnataka, which has everything working against it. A semi-arid climate, high temperatures, dry spells, receives rainfall only for 10-20 days, and an uphill task of planting trees and sustaining them, and yet, its residents strive to make the most of it. Realizing the importance of water, authorities like Karnataka Forest Department, are encouraging people to take full advantage of the rainfall to grow trees.
And all thanks to range officer Santosh Ajur from the Forest Department, things have changed in comparison to a decade ago.
Ajur thought that the quality of the trees was far more important than the quantity. He believed that the purpose was defeated if the trees couldn’t survive for a year, which was a common occurrence. However, for the last couple of years, the focus has been on the survival of the trees.
A large portion of the district is dry. The total notified forest area is only 1,800 hectares. Of this total, some parts in Basavana Bagewadi taluk is released; for an irrigation project across the Krishna River to provide irrigation to the drought-prone areas,
However, this area was not denotified and continues to be under the forest cover.
The conventional method of planting trees is by sowing seeds alongside the roads. Instead, Ajur planned to plant the saplings first in the nursery and allow them to grow 8-9 feet. Then plant them alongside the roads. Additionally, a technique is known as “Hardening off” was adopted for the trees.
This process, which takes about 2-3 weeks, involves moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights.
During daylight, the plants are left outside, in an area where they can be protected, under the shade, and then brought back indoors during the night. The number of hours they stay outdoors gradually increased each day until they naturally climate themselves.
This process was initially used, in Indi and Muddebihal taluks, to plant 1.5 lakh seedlings of species like Honge, ficus, peepal, and neem on the roadside, in educational institutions, ashrams, and crematoriums. With careful monitoring, a survival rate of 75 percent was achieved.
Replicating this, Santosh aimed at planting around 25,000 trees.
The water requirement of the trees also gradually came down. In the first year, plants were watered for six days in a week, which was reduced to two in the second year and not watered at all in the third year as they could survive on their own.
The Forest Department is also ensuring that awareness of tree and water conservation by giving mud, water, and seeds to the school children. Every year, all the school children are expected to dedicate one day in June to make seed balls.
In conclusion, it would be fair to say that the problem of green spaces turning grey is prevalent. However, people and the government can come together with approaches like these to transform the country.