BANGALORE: The garden city is a misnomer for Bangalore. Thanks to the authorities who cut trees regularly in the name of road widening and urban development. The Senaranya, an urban foresting project undertaken by NGO Eco-Watch in collaboration with Army at the ASC Centre in July, 2000, it seems is fighting a rather difficult battle.
The objective of Senaranya is to spread awareness about the importance of trees and indigenous species. They did it by creating lung space spread over 200 acres. “We wanted to create a urban forest on the barren land,” said Suresh Heblikar, chairperson of Eco-Watch. Over a lakh of saplings of trees, which are indigenous to Kolar and Tumkur, were planted after conducting soil analysis.
Simultaneously, the team conducted a biodiversity conservation programme titled Green Teachers’ Training to educate people on biodiversity distinctive to this region. In this programme, teachers from over 100 schools in Kolar, Tumkur and Bangalore Rural districts participated and they later passed on the knowledge to their students.
“The experts trained them to identify local plant and bird species. It also equipped them with sufficient knowledge to address environmental issues. When teachers failed to identify the species, they collected the sample and gave them to us,” said Akshay, son of Suresh Hebalikar.
The Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme (INEP) granted 60 per cent of the funds, while State Horticulture Department provided a few saplings. Suresh said, “This project helped me comprehend how the city must have been.”
But, all was not smooth with the project. Once, the villagers set fire to the forest as cattle grazing was not allowed. Later, the team educated them about the importance of biodiversity and allayed their fears for the future.
Today, there are close to 60,000 saplings taken care of by the Army. There are more than 120 varieties of species including Polyalthia longifolia, Michelia champaca and Swietenia mahagoni, among other. Besides, 35 varieties of butterflies, mangooses, snakes and hares are spotted in this region. Suresh said that it was cause for concern that several trees are on the verge extinction. “Senaranya project has provided home to many species and will continue to do so," he said.