Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tree-growers 'Nizhal' reach out to OMR high-rises

Mantri Synergy, a 750 unit apartment complex at Padur, OMR, takes pride in their common area landscaping. In fact, our landscaped space prompted film maker  Murgadoss to seek permission to film in our complex some sequences for the upcoming Tamil movie - Raja Rani.

Visually appealing, with green lawns and ornamental plants, Mantri's landscaping cost a packet to develop, and maintain through the gardening and regular watering of lawns. Fancy landscaping is a notable selling point for developers of high-rise residential communities. But do ornamental gardening with exotic plants add value to greening of the area, like planting traditional trees do?

Tree-planting groups such as Nizhal promote native species - Neem, honge, Kadubadami (tropical almond) are favoured species.Trees with berries — such as the jamun — attract a lot of birds. Nizhal, which has been fairly active in Adyar, Anna Nagar, Alwarpet and other localities in city centre, wants to reach out to emerging high-rise residential areas on OMR.

Programme co-ordinator Usha Sreedhar is addressing a mail to residents associations, seeking their co-operation. Nizhal, besides planting, is engaged in, what they call, a Free-the- tree drive. They organize a tree walk to monitor avenue trees in residential localities. Trees damaged with advertisement notices nailed to their trunks are removed by volunteers. Those seeking to carry out free-the-tree campaign in their area can contact for guidance Nizhal's Usha (9791029568), Babu (9884114721) or Shoba (9840904621).
 Nizhal tree walk at Kotturpuram 

Besides residents, shopkeepers, auto-drivers are encouraged to volunteer for tree walks. Participants spread the word among friends by uploading photos on tree walks in Facebook.Tree-planting is easily done, but Nizhal's challenge is in motivating residents for sustained care of saplings planted in public space, for at least two years after planting.

A  public-spirited group that created community blog - Friends of Roadside Trees - in Mysore was okay, but not enough to mobilize a critical mass of  tree-caring residents in various localities. Tree-planting activists such as Gurukar, who have planted over 1,000 trees in public spaces, are a rare spiecies. A retired govt. official, Gurukar moves about in his bicycle every morning, carrying with him planting kit and a sapling. He spends a part of his monthly pension on buying saplings to be planted on roadsie and other available space.

And,  in Chennai, we have at Mandaveli a tree-planting duo - Mr V Subramaniam, a retired RBI official, and Dr R Madhavan - who went around Chennai on a tricycle loaded with saplings, looking for vacant space to plant them. The tree-planting who were dubbed crackpots by some managed to plant 400 saplings at Mandaveli, within a year of their star, some 20 years back..They no longer plant, but Dr Madhavan hands out sapling to patients who visit his clinic.

Nizhal could, and they probably do, highlight the work of such tree-planting activists, to give a human touch to their campaign in schools, and residential areas. Nizhal lists their activites as:
1) Taking up planting initiatives, with support from businesses, local organizations and communities.
2) Providing saplings
3) Devising eco-projects,educational programmes
4) Tree walks
5) Publishing tree guides and and tree survey reports
6) Advising a tree protection code

Nizhal website
Nizhal on Facebook
'Raja Rani' teaser trailer that has gone viral

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