I remember the time when I sat down with Navin Patil, an ardent supporter of the Green Saviours work and he came up with this idea. He said, “Can we commence a project to plant a million trees in the coming five years in and around Belagavi?”. Sounded fantastic and I said “Yes, we can!”. Thus the idea of OMG- One Million Greens was born.
Going by conservative estimates, nearly one crore units that comprised native vegetation in the Western Ghats region near Belagavi, Karnataka have been lost in the past three decades. Human intrusion in the form of infrastructure projects, especially roads and housing, monoculture plantations and the present craze of private resorts have wreaked havoc upon these spaces.
This has severely impacted the climate and resulted in erratic weather patterns. The instances of flooding are also on a rise because there no longer is sufficient vegetation to hold the water. Barren spaces have increased soil erosion and enhanced the prospects of landslides. Farmlands in villages have lost productivity and the farmers have commenced urban migration and in some cases have given up on agriculture. Animal intrusions have become more frequent and further compounded farmer distress.
Although this is almost beginning to sound like an essay on the status of the Western Ghats, it is just a summation of around 16 months of travel to around 30 villages and endless conversations with the residents. The experiences over the past 18 months have been enriching and the learning seems to just go on and on.
They key learning have been thus:
1. In order to restore the Ghats, it is important to involve the people living there. It is only they who can help us accomplish this. Their socioeconomic problems too need to be accommodated because, after all, they are the real keepers of the region
2. It is nice to have a tree count but in the process we should not forget the little plants and shrubs that occupy the spaces under the trees since they too play a vital role in not just ensuring biodiversity at all levels but also in ensuring soil health and preventing soil erosion.
3. Techniques like the Miyawaki Method may suit urban spaces where the land available is scarce but one needs to consider a different and more relevant methodology as we go about restoring lands that are part of the forest ecosystems.
As we go about working on our mission OMG, it is imperative that we accommodate these issues and more since only then we will be able to accomplish a satisfactory restoration.
As the project is set to kick start in Monsoon 2022, we look forward to setting right as much of the mess as possible. And since the Ghats govern the weather across the nation if not beyond, it is a mission that we need to carefully execute with a great sense of logic and responsibility.
Stay tuned for the action plan…..
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