By S G Neginhal, I.F.S. Rtd
The population of Bengaluru which was 1.5 million in 1970 rose to about 4.5 million in the 1980s and green Bengaluru was turning into a concrete city. To stop this environmental disaster, the Karnataka Govt. created a new Green Belt Forest Division to take up a massive tree planting exercise. I was given charge of the new Division in 1982.
I perambulated the city to find out the best methods for speedy greening and studied why earlier efforts did not succeed. I decided to plant saplings 2 metres to 5 m in height. Instead of the expensive RCC Tree Guards, we came up one which were wooden poles of 2 m in height covered by chicken mesh and cost only Rs 23 each. The money saved enabled us to plant more saplings. These wooden Tree Guards became popular and was adopted by other states later.
We involved everyone in tree planting – from students, to politicians. We initiated awareness campaigns and got wide press coverage for tree planting events. Lorry loads of saplings were sent free of cost to locals when they organized tree planting by on their own.
Some novel methods adopted
Tree Banks were established in various localities where tall saplings and Tree Guards were distributed to the public free of cost. Honorary Tree Wardens were appointed to include students, teachers, professors, engineers, doctors, politicians, corporators, NGOs etc. to take care of the plants. Quarterly meetings involving the public were convened to discuss steps taken to green the city.
In particularly crowded areas planting was done after midnight. Truckloads of saplings 4mt and above in height were transported to the site; pits were dug and saplings planted till 3:00 a.m. In the morning people were pleasantly surprised to see a fresh green look on the streets. The city was indeed becoming green once again.
The huge success in greening Bengaluru led to the inclusion of Urban Forestry in our Five Year Plans.