It began as a tiny idea that germinated during a talk between the Social Welfare Minister, the Mayor and a college professor. But in little over a year’s time, the Indo-International Initiative for a Billion Fruit Trees (IIIBFT), has gone far beyond what it began as – a project to grow fruit tree saplings in Chennai Schools in the city.
The project, now taken up by the Department of Environment to be initiated in schools across the State, supplies the saplings for every possible locality, be it the Infosys campuses or the Mettur Dam.
The students of Nungambakkam Corporation Girls Higher Secondary School are a proud lot. They have grown about 5,000 fruit tree saplings in a matter of few months. Their target – to grow 10,000 saplings by December — a number they are confident of reaching much earlier.
“You have to be very careful with the saplings”, “Every plastic baggage for the saplings should have at least four holes”, “The water you pour should not be too much or too less,” said the girls of class six, who have been grooming the saplings at the school. The girls have spent all their free time in the evenings putting together saplings, collecting used plastic bags and cutting them in the right shapes to be used as sapling bags and gathering seeds from every possible site.
The saplings that have been developed in the Nungambakkam Girls and Boys Higher Secondary School have been going places.
The NGO, Tree Bank, has collaborated with the project to collect and plant the saplings. “We have distributed it to the Power Department, the Railways, at streets in Adyar and to some schools and colleges too,” said G Mullaivanam of the Tree Bank Trust.
Thanks to the initiative, several corporates too now have a place to go when it comes to promoting a green environment and ensuring food security.
For instance, Infosys has been one of the biggest recipients of the saplings grown at schools.
Meanwhile, the Environment Department is promoting the initiative through its National Green Corps (NGC) programme.
“The director of the Department of Environment was so impressed by the project that he met with all 65 district coordinators in the State to take up the project in all the schools in the State,” said G Thangaraj, district coordinator, NGC, who is among the active promoters of the project. Thanks to his initiative, about 55 schools in Chennai have already launched the project in their schools.
Founder of the project, Alagu Perumal Ramasamy, hopes to grow one lakh saplings by next year. “The long term goal is to have one billion fruit trees and provide food security through them,” he adds.