A walk amongst the trees

By Reader Contribution

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Our first Tree Walk was held in Besant Nagar. Led by Dr. Narayanaswamy, a retired professor of Botany, a motley group of 30 tree enthusiasts went along observing and learning about trees by the roadside.

While learning about the trees, walkers learnt about issues that trees in urban areas face – abuse, nailing, and suffocation by indiscriminate paving. People don’t realise the long-term effects of a tree that is cut and not replaced. In one act of destruction, a vital eco-system that provided a haven for many birds, squirrels and insects is removed.

So, the damage goes on until worrying stories about global warming (for many individuals, this too seems to have no effect) make you think you’d better do something. There are several things we can do to create a greener Chennai.

• Being aware of the correct procedure for planting and caring for a sapling is very important. Also, choose species that help regenerate local biodiversity.

• Begin to notice the trees around you – the beautiful shapes, colours, flowers and fruits. Also notice the insensitive pruning, stakes that need removal, tree guards that can harm, and trees dying from wounds, drought and pollution and do everything you can for them.

• Become a tree guardian. Begin by adopting one tree in your own street, then wash its leaves, give it a drink, and see if it needs any special care. Then take on another and another. Check up on them every once in a while to see how they’re doing.

Nizhal invites corporate organisations to be part of our movement for sensitive greening. One could take part in tree surveys, awareness campaigns, and most importantly, to dispel the myth that ‘greening’ is only about ‘planting saplings’.

To be a responsible tree planter is most important, and this means taking care to monitor the growth of the saplings planted (it should never be about the number of saplings planted), and to help regenerate biodiversity of flora and fauna with a careful choice of species and a focus on bringing back indigenous species that are fast vanishing.

Often, in the course of my work, I remember the concluding line from Late Sundara Ramasami’s poem, Vriksha Manidhargal – Manithargal marangal pol vazhum kalaam varum (There will come a time when men will live like trees!). Nizhal hopes so too.

The author Shobha Menon, is one of the five founder trustees of Nizhal (‘Shade’ in Tamil), a Chennai-based NGO that promotes tree culture in urban landscapes. Reach them at nizhal.shade@gmail.com or call 044- 42045137. More information on Nizhal and its activities can be found at www.nizhaltn.org

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