Baner Tekdi Afforestation
A citizen's effort to fight climate change
Posted on behalf of Rohit Nayak, Clean Earth Movement, Baner, Pune
Baner Hills in the western part of the city are one of the largest open spaces remaining in Pune. The latest Development Plan proposal from the Pune Municipal Corporation (that has yet to be ratified by the State Assembly) has designated this hill as part of a Bio-Diversity Park. The hill is currently designated as “Gairan”: community grazing land for the village. As of early 2006 the hill was barren and rocky. Presumably years of unchecked wood-cutting and grazing has lead to complete deforestation. However the soil is very fertile as shown by the fact that our plantation efforts have borne fruit very quickly. The Baner area was almost completely agricultural even as of ten years ago. The number of constructions that have come up have changed the local climate perceptibly and have increased temperatures, air pollution and played a part in the flooding of local rivers and canals. Baner hill is barren and has very fertile soil. The lack of plantation on the hill has caused a lot of erosion as is apparent by the rockiness of the terrain. Most of the rain water that falls on the hill flows down and goes into the river or floods building complexes.History of Action
On August 15 2006, a small group of people living in and around Baner (Pune, India) got together under the banner of the Clean Earth Movement. The initial activities were of keeping the area around Banergaon garbage-free and planting a few trees on Tukai Tekdi (Baner Hill). We are now a much larger group of about 500 active members. The garbage management activities have spread through Baner and Balewadi. About 6000 saplings have been planted on the hill and every Sunday morning members of our group can be seen tending to these trees.
Our efforts are currently in three areas:
* Tree Plantation: Afforestation of Baner Hill to provide a "green lung" as CO2 sinks.
* Waste Management: Dry and Wet Waste separation and Wet Waste Composting to locally manage garbage and reduce methane emissions.
* Clean Rivers: Avoid pollution of river water which has resulted in the main rivers of Pune looking like sewage canals and causing major floods.
While many members of the group meet consistently every Sunday morning there are a few group members who spend from 10 to 40 hours a week doing various activities related to the plantation. This operational core group meets once a week at night to take stock of the situation and make short-term and long-term plans towards the plantation and other activities. All members also have full-time responsibilities at work and at home, so we need to work very smart to get things done using our individual skills.
* Threat of Land Use Reclassification: There is a constant threat from a certain section of the industry and political class to change the land use regulations so as to allow private ownership and residential construction.
* Informal action: The entire effort is currently done voluntarily by citizens. We have not been able to get significant direct assistance from the administration though they are aware and indirectly supportive of the efforts. However the pace at which we can convert this area into a bio-diverse forested area can be significantly speeded up with even a small amount of help from the administrative machinery in terms or labour and/or budgetary allocations. The task we have undertaken is huge. If a plant doesn't get water for a few weeks during summer it can die. So the watering efforts have to be continuous. We need to get a much larger population involved in this if we are to afforest the entire hill without a greater participation from the government/local administration
* Vandalism: Thoughtless as well as purposeful vandalism is one major problem. Some plants have been uprooted, small grass fires started and some of of Sintex tanks stolen or broken. Surface cement tanks have been built to replace the Sintex tanks, but these are more expensive.
* Grazing: Some cow and goat herders use the hill for their stock. We reasoned with them and requested them to stay off the areas where we had planted the trees. In the long term the afforestation will also provide their cattle and goats with an abundance of food. However we need to be vigilant of stray cattle and sheep that can quickly destroy our young saplings.Techniques Used
Continuous Contour Trenching:
Following the advice of former forest conservator Mr. Vasantrao Takalkar, the technique of continuous contour trenches (CCTs) was used. Each CCT is a one-two foot wide circular trench at the same height circling the hill. Multiple CCTs are built around the hill at different heights. Each CCT is built slightly sloping in towards the hill so that water flowing down the hill is retained and soil erosion is minimized. This is a great example of rain water harvesting. The water is caught in these trenches and recharges the soil rather than flowing into drains. Those of us who have been walking up Baner hill for years the rocky terrain seemed to suggest that trees could not grow here. However the rockiness is a result of erosion and just below the rocky surface is very fertile soil.Indigenous Trees:
Trees are planted giving enough distance between each tree so they don't hamper the growth of their neighbours. The trees chosen are those that are found locally on the hill as well as in Baner. These include Neem, Pipal, Banyan, Bor, Kanchan, Karvanda, Gulmohar, Bahava etc. On the plateau near the small temple several medicinal, flowering and fruiting plants have been planted as well.Bunding:
We have built several bunds at strategic locations on the hill. These help in stemming the flow of water so that it gets a chance to percolate into the hill. We also hope that it will reduce the soil erosion further.Regular Watering:
Tree plantation drives in India are usually a farce. An important person comes and plants trees and goes back. No one follows up in protecting and watering the plants and in a short time there is no trace of that plant. No tree plantation will achieve its results without a plan to continuously water, protect and maintain the plants[/li][/list]
Our group meets every Sunday morning for about two hours (7:30am to 9:30am). There are tanks that have been put at different parts of the hill and water is being pumped when required. We then fill 5 litre cans with water and form chains to deliver water to plants around the hill. Starting from a group of only about 10 in 2006 there are now 50-100 people who participate every Sunday. In addition a group meets on Wednesday evenings and small groups go almost every morning and evening taking care of different parts of the plantation.Sunday Breakfast
We have been organizing breakfast on Sunday for everyone who comes for the watering activities. This has been a great way to get people together to discuss what they think of our activities, get access to criticisms, suggestions for doing things better and to ask for help for the problems that we are facing at that point of time.
For the last three years we have also had New Year dinner parties a couple of days before New Year’s Eve. We give a short presentation on the status of the plantation. We also invite an expert in the area of forestry or natural sciences to give a short speech. This helps us get a lot of our members together and inspire members for the coming year. The party is held at the base of the hill and volunteers make a simple traditional dinner cooked on open wood fire.
The Future Plan
Given the size of the hill we have already covered, we have decided that unless we get some significant support from the government and local administration we will not be expanding the area of plantation.
If we do get the support we are hoping from the government or local bodies we are hoping to afforest the entire hill within 2015. We will spread from our current end point (which is the saddle connecting the Baner section to the Pashan section) towards the highway end. We will also cover certain difficult patches we have currently left since they are treacherous for non-trained people to traverse up and down to put water.
The plan will be to create a bio-diverse forest in the barren sections of the hill. There is one large section with monoculture of glyricedia that was planted by the government years ago. We plan to leave that untouched at least until the rest of the hill is fully forested.
For more information visit www.cleanearthmovement.com