Nakshatravan at Baner Hill: An example of great planning and execution of Tree Plantation
Saturday, 13 July 2013 13:33
There are people who wish to utilize their time for a noble
cause. If they get a platform, they can do wonders. In the summer of this year
few volunteers of Clean Earth Movement (CEM) decided to do some Bhagirath task.
There have been continuous contour trenches (CCTs)
of 70,000 running feet prepared by CEM on the Baner hill for tree plantation
and water harvesting. The trenches need repair work. For better management of scope
of plantation activities, the plantation area was divided into zones. Those zones
were given names of sanctuaries in India. One of the remote zones called
Nakshatravan was taken for repairing of CCTs. For complete months April and May
the team used to gather at 6:00am and work till 9:00am to do the CCT repair
work. The area was quite hard to dig, but the determination of volunteers made it
to break into soil.
With the consistency in the work the trenches of around 7000
running feet were repaired. The CCTs repaired were so accurate and strong that
when there were water streams flowing fast in heavy rains, the CCTs were intact
and not a single CCT broke. In Takalkar Sir’s terminology, all CCTs were acting
as small dams indeed.
Next day when the team visited the place, all the water
accumulated during rain had disappeared. What else a true volunteer wants when
he sees that his efforts have given the fruits! The team had already done the
preparatory activities for tree plantation like bringing selected plants, etc.
The next day, they took the pits in the trenches, put the wormiculture and
systematically carried out the tree plantation activity.
With the strong determination and high spirits, the team has
set to rock in this monsoon. The team considers this tree plantation work as a
worship of god and it would be worth singing below lines on such occasions:
Aaji Soniyacha Dinu I Varshe Amrutacha Ghanu I Hari Pahila
Re Hari Pahila Re II
Tukai Deorai being developed at Baner. Till date about 5000 trees /saplings have been planted and are growing well.There are about 7 laks villages in India and many more across the world.To make carbon balanced world our future planning shall be one village - one biodiversity park (Deorai).Tukai Deorai shall be model in India. The Deorai is an ancient concept and we shall see it in many villages across India even now.The idea is that there is reserve forest named after local God /Goddes at every village.People belive that God will be angry if anybody cut a tree from Deorai.
In many villages in India, there is reserved land for Deorai where biodiversity can be restored.
Posing for a photo before heading back after a good day of watering!
May 3rd was a very hot day. I had hoped to go earlier in the morning hoping to avoid the sun but reached only around 8pm. One group had already watered and left. There were a few at the new well we are building at the base. This will be a large one which will be charged using tankers. We will be moving the pump as well from the current location at Mr Kalmadi's house.
The new small well on the top is almost done. We are going to need names for all the wells that are coming up :)
I took this low shot of the gulmohur (?) juxtaposed with the small flowering plant to show the health of our plants. Many of them look especially beautiful with fresh green leaves glinting in the sun.
The big well on the top has made it really easy to fill up cans and store water. Water is rarely a constraint now and hence even with smaller groups we are able to cover a large area quickly.
There were not many people today and many had come and gone earlier, but you can see everyone spread around the small temple which was where we were concentrating today. There were four members of the Gayatri Parivar (Neeta Thorat, Rajesh Rajan, Sameer Maheshwari and Anil Parashar) who had come. At least one member from their group has been coming to the hill every Sunday now for the past several weeks. Payal Gupta and Priyanka Arora both in IT and living in Nigdi also joined. Payal is going to start a tree plantation group in Nigdi along the Pavana.
Other groups had already watered the other parts of the top and on the way down we drew water from the base well to quickly water some parts near the Tukai temple which Sandeep was covering and he needed some more people to help out.
One of the great things about Pune is the presence of various hills within and outside the city. Most Pune-ites have come to know and love Sinhagad, Parvati, Vetaal Tekdi and Hanuman Tekdi. Other lesser known hills like the Baner Tukai Tekdi, Range Hills, Kondhwa hill etc also provide joy to several people who use it for exercise or just a reason to be out of the concrete jungle that Pune has become.
They are known as the "lungs of the city" because they provide much-needed open spaces and carbon sinks. It is important that we preserve these and increase the green cover on them if we want to improve the air that we breath 24x7. Not only does this have significance for local people but every tree that grows and survives is fighting the difficult battle against global warming.
The first activity of the Clean Earth Movement was to start afforestation of Baner Hill. We started on August 2006 in the area around Tukai Mandir, at the Banergaon end of the hill. We aim to plant trees over the entire hill (upto the expressway) by 2011. Currently (as of Jan 2009) we have planted and nurtured over 5000 trees.
Continuous Contour Trenching Following the advice of former forest conservator Mr. Vasantrao Takalkar, the technique of continuous contour trenches (CCTs) was used. Each CCT is a two foot wide circular trench at the same height. Multiple CCTes are built around the hill at different heights. Each CCT is built slightly sloping in towards the hill so that water flowing down the hill is retained and soil erosion is minimised. This is a great example of rain water harvesting. The water is caught in these trenches and recharges the soil rather than flowing into drains.
Those of us who have been walking up Baner hill for years the rocky terrain seemed to suggest that trees could not grow here. However the rockiness is a result of erosion and just below the rocky surface is very fertile soil.
Indigenous Trees Trees are planted giving enough distance between each tree so they don't hamper the growth of their neighbours. The trees chosen are those that are found locally on the hill as well as in Baner. These include Neem, Pipal, Banyan, Bor as well as medicinal plants like Tulsi. On the plateau near the small temple several flowering and fruiting plants have been planted as well.
Regular Watering Tree plantation drives in India are usually a farce. An important person comes and plants trees and goes back. No one follows up in protecting and watering the plants and in a short time there is no trace of that plant. No tree plantation will achieve its results without a plan to continuously water, protect and maintain the plants.
Our group meets every Sunday morning for about two hours (7:30am to 9:30am). There are tanks that have been put at different parts of the hill and water is being pumped when required. We then fill 5 litre cans with water and form chains to deliver water to plants around the hill. Starting from a group of only about 10 in 2006 there are now 50-100 people who participate every Sunday. In addition a group meets on Wednesday evenings and small groups go almost every morning and evening taking care of different parts of the plantation.
Community Toilets One problem that we faced while planting and watering was the fact that several migrant workers and slum dwellers were using the hill as open toilets. We looked into their problems and some community toilets were built by the local administration.
Grazing Some cow and goat herders use the hill for their stock. We reasoned with them and requested them to stay off the areas where we had planted the trees. In the long term the afforestation will also provide their cattle and goats with an abundance of food.
Corporate Involvement We are trying to get companies to take care of some parts of the hill using their employees. For example Symphony manages a part of the hill behind their office. In this area, they have paid for the CCT construction, planted trees and are involved in regular watering activities.
Awareness The biggest challenge facing us is the lack of awareness and understanding of the grave dangers posed to our very existence by global warming. Very few people know or understand what impact climate change could have on our lives. Much of our efforts are hence directed to explaining this issue among the people and also convincing them that they need to step forward to make a difference.
Consistency and Growth The task we have undertaken is huge. If a plant doesn't get water for a few weeks during summer it can die. So the watering efforts have to be continuous. We need to get a much larger population involved in this if we are to afforest the entire hill.
Vandalism Thoughtless as well as purposeful vandalism is one major problem. Some plants have been uprooted, small grass fires started and some of of Sintex tanks stolen or broken. We are in the process of getting security as well as cement tanks constructed to fight this.
We had a great day today. I met Sriram, Anish and Vikas Bhir coming down at 8am. They had started early at 6:30am to beat the heat and finished most of the area near the Tukai temple and the initial plateau area near the broken Sintex tank. Their idea was good, many of us are planning to start the watering earlier during the summer months.
I took their cans and went on ahead to the big tank where there was about 50 people including about 20 children. Some of the children was in the tank filling the cans faster than people could water! Many others including several 7-9 year olds were carrying five liter cans, some walking pretty quickly with two cans!
A contingent from Riviresa with several children came and participated very strongly. Thanks to them for the fresh cut fruit supplied at the end along with the delicious Poha that came from Hanumant Murkute's house.
I think almost 100% of the hill was covered today because of the large number of people and the efficient work done by them. Hope we get the same response through the summer months. The saplings must surely be hoping so!