Plantation and Forests
Sowing saplings, nurturing forest
Uday Upvan is a unique initiative started by the Give Me Trees Trust. Through Uday Upvan, Give Me Trees Trust collaborated with HCL Foundation and transformed 12 acres of barren and uncultivable land into an urban forest.
This urban forest is located in Sorkha village, Gautam Budh Nagar, Noida. The initiative has led to greater participation from the community members and the district administration. Together, they are engaged in restoring the landscape and are working towards the protection and conservation of the urban forest. Uday Upvan consists of 40 varieties of native tree species, 15 varieties of shrubs, 5 varieties of climbers and other flowering plants constituting more than sixty-six thousand plants in total. The forest also consists of 2 big ponds and 8 small water banks, also, a drain water treatment section, which treats the drain water coming from the nearby village settlement naturally with aquatic plants.
Uday Upvan has directly impacted the wildlife as the land is now home to 23 species of birds, many species of butterflies, beetles and bugs, bees, snakes and mammals.
The forest has positively affected the community as well. The installation of two water pumps has provided the nearby communities with a clean water source and the forest also provides the villagers with fodder for their cattle.
Uday Upvan wouldn’t have been successful without the constant and rigorous efforts put in by the Gautam Buddh Nagar District Administration. According to the Indian Forest Survey Report of 2017, the forest area in Gautam Buddh Nagar, Noida, is merely 1.56%. Considering the official statistics, this green initiative of transforming barren land into an urban forest is not only significant but commendable. Taking into account the continuous fall in groundwater levels and diminishing forest area, the Uday Upvan initiative is a great example of the public-private partnership model.
At a glance: Forest covers in cities
Increasing economic growth and infrastructure have adversely impacted the environment and have resulted in a decline in green covers. To tackle this issue, India’s major states are introducing policies to increase green covers.
In a recent study based on Google Earth’s Landsat satellite data, an attempt was made to observe the area of green and forest covers in the major cities in India.
The data suggest that Delhi is India’s leading city in green and forest cover with a total of 56% of its land dedicated to the forest, while Kolkata is second with 52% of forest cover. Banglore and Hyderabad stand third with 51% of green and forest cover.
Chennai dedicates only 43% of its land to forest and green covers while the number for Mumbai goes as low as 12%. India pledged to increase its green and forest cover from 21% to 33% in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.
Miyawaki jungles: a concrete solution
Urban spaces are now synonymous with ‘Concrete jungles’. The term ‘Concrete jungle’ reflects declining green covers. Due to ever-increasing infrastructure development, concrete has replaced greenery in urban spaces.
However, it is not possible to stop these constructions. However, the negative impact it has had on urban spaces can be curbed through urban forests.
Akira Miyawaki, Japan’s well-known botanist and forest specialist, devised some strategies that can be useful in the future. The forest designed by his conceptual understanding is known as Miyawaki forests wherein, small plots of land are converted into small jungles.
What is Miyawaki?
The interesting fact about the Miyawaki methodology is that it can be followed by planting just two to four trees within a square meter of land. The method involves planting dozens of native species in a single area which eventually results in the forest becoming self-sufficient after the initial three years. It also ensures that the plant growth remains 10 times better and 30 times denser than other plantation methods.
The Miyawaki method also helps to lower the atmospheric temperature and reduce air and noise pollution. Apart from this, it attracts local insects and birds and functions as a carbon sink.
Bringing about Positive Change
In December 2021, HCL Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Karnataka Forest Department. The MOU aims to contribute to the plantation of native species and play a critical role in engaging local stakeholders toward community-based forest conservation.
In November 2021, the Swach Sarvekshan Award for India’s Cleanest Medium City (Cities with a population of 3-10 lakhs) was bagged by Noida.
This became possible due to the collaboration between the district administration and HCL Foundation’s Clean Noida campaign.
HCL Foundation also took the responsibility for mass afforestation and water conservation in Lucknow in collaboration with the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) and Give Me Trees Trust in 2019.
The program is called Atal Upavan, named after former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. So far, 60,000 trees have been planted and 10 water holes for water harvesting have been prepared and are functional along with two compost pits.
Persistent Plantation for Preservation
National Conservation Foundation has been working towards identifying and protecting rainforest patches in the Western Ghats since 2001. NCF has partnered with many plantation companies operating in the Western Ghats,
such as Tata Coffee Ltd, Parry Agro Industries Ltd and Tamil Nadu forest department and, with combined efforts, has protected more than 1075 hectares in 35 parts of the Western Ghats.
NCF has planted over 57,300 saplings of native rainforest plant species in the region of Anamalai hills to restore the forest cover, among which 61% of the saplings flourished naturally.
New Plant Species Found In Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad
By joint efforts of SNM College Maliankara and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, two new plant species are discovered in Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad districts in the western ghats.
These plants have also received their names as Fimbristylis Sunilii (Right pic) and Neanotis Prabhuii (left pic). Such findings are published in detail in the plant taxonomy journal Phytotaxa.
The Fimbristylis Sunilii plant is named after plant taxonomist CN Sunil and the Neanotis Prabhuii plant received its name from K.M. Prabhukumar, Senior Scientist at CSIR-NBRI, Lucknow.
Want to see this flower, wait till 2030!
Strobilanthes Kunthiana, commonly known as Neelakurinji in Tamil and Malayam, is a flower species found in the deep Shola forest of western ghats in Kerala. The most interesting thing about this particular flower species is that it blossoms only once in 12 years.
The species was last seen blooming in 2018, so if you want to witness this special phenomenon, you will have to wait till 2030. The flower, when it blossoms, covers the Shola forest with its blue, purple and pink colours.
Earlier this flower was also present in different regions of western ghats like Cardamom Hills, Anamalai Hills, Kudremukh and Nilgiri Hills. Excessive plantation and commercial activities occupied the space meant for the Neelakurinji Flower, hence the flower was annihilated from these parts.
Steep decline of Forest in NE despite overall growth: Forest Report 2021
India’s forest cover saw an increase of 1540 sq km since 2019 and 17 states have a forest cover of more than 33%. In addition, very dense forest cover has increased by 501 sq km. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change published India’s State Of Forest Report on 12 January 2022.
One of the key findings of the report is that there has been a reduction of forest cover in the northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya. These states witnessed a reduction of 1000 sq km of forest cover combined, having huge implications for the biodiversity in India.
The decline in North-Eastern forest cover is due to natural calamities like heavy rainfall and landslides. Anthropogenic activities such as agricultural and development projects too have led to a reduction of forest cover in the region. Activists, researchers, and critics have opined that the report may not give us a clear picture as commercial plants and trees of coffee, coconuts and mangos are also included while estimating the forest cover and have urged to reconsider their definition of ‘forest’.
Give Me Trees - Reviving Biodiversity
A monitor lizard and a Red-naped Ibis were spotted at the plantation site developed by Give Me Trees Trust and the HCL Foundation in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
The role of these giant monitor lizards in biodiversity is to control prey populations and play the role of scavengers. Monitor lizards are usually shy creatures and try to stay away from humans. They don’t attack anyone unless they are provoked to do so.
The Red-naped Ibis feeds on insects, lizards, aquatic insects and small reptiles and is mostly found in marshes, lakes, dry fields and river beds. The bird is also known as the Black Ibis or the Indian Black Ibis.
The spotting of these species is a result of the plantation that proved to be a significant step in reviving biodiversity in the area.
Constantly Declining Forest Cover - North East India
The forest cover of northeastern states has reduced by 1,020 square kilometres in the past two years. Arunachal Pradesh has lost 257 sq km of forest cover, the highest out of all north-eastern states according to the forest report of 2021 released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The north-eastern region alone accounts for 76% of the vanished forest cover of India in the past 20 years and Assam alone accounts for 14% of it. Constant floods and growing cultivation are the ones to blame and, as a result, 269 sq km of forest cover has been lost from 2000 to 2021 in Assam.
Difference between Forest cover loss and deforestation
Forest cover loss is different from deforestation. Forest cover can refer to trees planted by humans as well as natural forests. Forest cover loss is the removal of tree canopy through human or natural causes, including fire, floods or extreme weather conditions whereas deforestation is straight cutting down of trees.