A renewed interest among corporates to create green spaces thriving with native trees is cheering up environmentalists
It is raining ‘green’ drives. A visual treat of towering palm trees bordering a landscape dotted with red hibiscus blooms,clusters of pink oleanders, red ixoras, and white crepe jasmine flowers will soon unfold along the water bodies located on the Thiruvallur-Chennai-Chidambaram Highway.
In another development, the Raynal Lake in Karnataka that witnessed invasive weeds has had a makeover with native trees like neem, pungania, Arjuna and Ashoka, all regularly watered and taken care of. A 60-acre site in the Nilgiris with two streams and a tea estate, is being restored to its original shola and grassland ecosystem with native grasses and shrubs. All these projects, backed by corporates, focus on creating mindful green spaces with trees that have been growing in the region for thousands of years.
“It’s a heartening trend. A number of corporates are approaching environmentalists to make their green drives count. One way of doing this is by leaning on to ancient wisdom to choose the right trees and get the best results,” explains Sivaram TR, founder of Vetri NGO. His initiative, Vanathukkul Tiruppur, a project completely funded by corporates, has planted one million trees in Tiruppur district of Tamil Nadu. “Most of the land belongs to the corporates which are either ancestral properties that were left barren or purchased by them for expansions like setting up a spinning mill, wind mill or solar park.”
Sivaram explains how our ancestors divided land into Kurunji (mountains), Mullai (forests), Marudham (farmlands), Neidhal (coastal land) and Paalai( dry land) based on agro-climate conditions and recommended suitable plants.
“In Tamil Nadu, villages have names like Velampalayam, Puliampatti, Ichipatti, and Arasmapalyam, referring to trees (with these names) flourishing there for ages. Many insects, birds, and animals depend on these trees for food and shelter,” he says.
There is renewed interest in conservation among corporates, says G Sanjay Prasad, environmental engineer of Environmentalists Foundation of India, an NGO that works with 14 states in the country. They restore water bodies scientifically and plant native trees in the habitats surrounding the lakes. “They no longer look at planting a tree as a mere photo opportunity,” he observes.
Across the country, people are using native plants to restore green spaces, for many reasons. Native trees act as carbon sinks, points out Sanjay. “A carbon sink takes in all forms of carbon from atmosphere, and gives out oxygen. The trees regulate humidity, bring down temperature, and improve water percolation and water table. We set up floating islands on water where vetiver grass is grown along the border to strengthen the bunds. We also plant bamboo, and fruit-bearing trees like amla and Jamun.”
In Coimbatore, a 400-acre industrial space at Kallapalayam and Moppripalayam is now a green park thriving with thousands of native trees and a bird sanctuary. Award-winning environmentalist Yoganathan, who developed the park along with a team led by S Shantha Kumar, secretary of CODISSIA Industrial Park Limited, describes how a welcoming cool breeze and the intoxicating fragrance of brown vaagai flowers can uplift one’s spirits instantly. “Sorga maram (paradise tree) helps cut down radiations of cellphone towers while iluppai (mahua) trees are good to bring rains, and the naatuvangam (false Ashoka) filters dust and controls pollution. The jamun trees at the park are special. The seeds are from a jamun tree planted by Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to Coimbatore in 1934.”