Ever since the city of Belagavi has been included in the Smart City program of the Government of India, several environmentalists live in the fear that native vegetation will be sacrificed. The developmental works in terms of roads and buildings, often call for a clearing of spaces and the axe falls upon trees that have graced the sites for ages. Most often, these are trees that we have lived and grown up with; trees that are landmarks for specific regions within the city limits.
When the road construction on Khanapur Road commenced, several towering giants in the form of Banyan and Peepal trees, met their dismal fate at the hand of modern chopping equipment. Large volumes of pleasant shade were reduced to nothingness. Everything seemed to be lost.
In the monsoon of 2018, a little ray of hope emerged as if to compensate for the loss of vegetation. Under the leadership of local MLA Shri Abhay Patil, several pits were dug along the sides of Khanapur road and the exercise of tree plantation began. Critics remained largely skeptical of the prospective accomplishment and one wondered if it would be just another Vanamahotsava event.
It’s been almost two years and the times that have passed have seen the MLA gather volunteers and resources to water the trees and provide for their upkeep. Citizens and shopkeepers in the vicinity have also watered and maintained the trees.
Come May 2020 and the silver lining has widened into something more significant. Most trees have managed to find root within the spaces provided and today stand testimony to consistent efforts on part of the humans who chose to make it a mission to restore the greenery to whatever extent possible. The one tree that stands out amidst this hot summer is quite symbolically called “The Pride of India”- Lagerstroemia speciosa, with its wonderful pink blossoms that are a treat to the senses. Scores of these trees are in full bloom along the roadsides in addition to the slowly evolving canopies of the Peepal and Jackfruit trees. Another wonderful inclusion in this set of trees is the Kadamba tree with its broad leaves. Quite evidently, Mother Nature has responded magically, as usual to the effort to create a space with some wonderful trees in the midst of the Urban Landscape.
Going ahead, it is important to include such magical trees across the city. It is just a matter of concerted effort. We also need to create several little urban forests in order to offset the effects of the enhanced load of concrete across the city and the responsibility needs to be extended to afforestation of spaces in the nearby Western Ghats region which define the weather in the region. Belgaumites can collectively undertake this responsibility. The activity can also translate into employment opportunities and livelihood for people living in the villages there.
The “New Trees on the Block” at Khanapur road are an “Infrastructural Essential”, extremely vital to Belagavi building an image of being a truly Smart City. We as responsible citizens in association with the local administration can translate this into a larger initiative aimed at restoring the climate and even the groundwater levels in the region.
Let us hope that the elected representatives take due note of their own little accomplishment and extend efforts to establish similar Green Spaces that provide shelter, oxygen and soothing relief to the tired eyes.
The Green Saviours team over 4 years and 216 consecutive Sundays of work, has developed methodologies to create urban forests and most definitely looks forward to an invitation from the local authorities to create Mini Forests which serve as a lifeline for human and other species alike.
Despite the present loss of vegetation, with a collective effort beginning now, we can create full grown forests in just about two years and also add wonderful canopy trees along roadsides over a slightly longer passage of time. It is time to shift focus from aesthetically appealing lawns to larger flora which provides more holistic offerings.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up to the chirping of the birds, some super cool shade in hot summers and the wonderful sound of the rustling of leaves as the wind gently blows through them?
About the Author:
The author is an environmentalist who is the founder and coordinator of Green Saviours Association, a not-for-profit company engaged in tree plantation, restoration of degraded landscapes and creation of forests in the region for 216 consecutive Sundays since April 2016. He is also an educationist, counselor and career consultant working as a Training and Development Officer at KLE Society, Belagavi.