Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Jan 19: Mangaluru is a constantly evolving city, but with the increase in the rate of development, the city's green cover has taken a beating. Recently, to facilitate road widening from Valencia to Nandigudda stretch, neary 50 trees were cut.
Many of us have walked under the shade of these trees but few have expressed the pain of losing them. Here is a person from Mangaluru who felt that he had to do something to facilitate afforestation and give a clear message to the society and more importantly, to the authorities, on the importance of conserving nature.
What if these trees were made of flesh and blood, like humans? This is the powerful message emanating from 'Wood to meat campaign' started by Charles Anil D'Souza who works as a technical architect with a software product company in Bengaluru.
Inspired by his Bengaluru friend Vijay Nishanth, Charles has painted the wooden logs at Valencia to depict them as flesh. "Christmas was not so happy for me, the reason being there were at least 20 to 25 large giant trees being axed from Valenica to Jeppu. I have lived and grown up in Jeppu area for 23 years almost and walked under the shades of these trees and enjoyed and savored every breath of fresh air, watching birds chirping on during daytime and listened to insects screeching in the night. Though deforestation has been happening for the last couple of years, it impacted me the most this time," he says.
"These trees are almost 50 to 60 years old and someone planted them, keeping our generation in mind so we could walk under their shade and receive a breath of fresh air. I noticed about 20 rain trees and atleast 5 ficus trees (peepal) in this stretch which were or going to be felled. Each tree would have been an ecosystem in itself with different insects and birds. Importantly, it provided shade to young and old who were going to nearby churches and schools. On the contrary they have planted some cherry plants to compensate for the axed trees, which is ironical and dumb," he adds.
"Deeply saddened by the scene, I decided to do my bit for spreading message/awareness to people around by portraying the trees as bleeding by painting depicting a cut meat loaf on them. My friend Vijay Nishanth, a noted environmentalist from Bengaluru, known for project www.vruksha.com, implemented this idea in Bengaluru on felled trees. On similar lines, I implemented the idea, hoping a small spark would trigger in people's mind and make them aware of the importance of trees and that cutting them should be the last resort," Charles told daijiworld.
An environmentalist who works with Vruksha.com in Bengaluru, Charles has also documented information about various trees in Bengaluru.
"When a tree is already cut, the only thing you can do is make people aware that they have lost a part of themselves. The approach I adopted by painting trees like sliced meat would send a message to some like-minded people. It was not a provoked action," he said, when asked a bout the response from public he hoped to elicit.
"I painted these trees on December 27 evening, and the following day I went around the area to see if more trees had been axed. Interestingly, and sadly, somebody had moved only the wooden logs I had painted. The unpainted ones were still lying there. I am sure this was done by the city corporation people who got the message. Also, while I was painting, a few passersby asked me whether I was from the forest department, and why it cut the trees. They shared similar sentiments on tree cutting and did not like the department's move either.
He also said no official from the forest department had contacted him or appreciated his concern, despite having clearly noticed his work.
Charles believes that through sustained and concerted efforts involving the authorities, the corporates as well as the public, the city's green cover could be maintainted. "Mangaluru is a small city and still very much green despite the fact that it has lost nearly 50% of the green cover as compared to 20 years ago. Thanks to the rich bio-diversity our city is blessed with, we are at a stage where we can work on sustaining what we have in terms of flora and fauna by collaborating with the local muncipal and also engaging real estate firms. One simple example of dissapearing green cover I can give is the Bejai Museum road, hill and surroundings there. I have observed 35% of the hill, which was lush green three years ago, being swallowed by an aparment. I have no doubt in my mind that the rest will disappear in the next 3 to 5 years!
"So I decided, whenever I come down on vacation to Mangaluru, I will ensure that I do my bit by planting saplings or carry awareness drives for people to take notice and ignite a spark in someone's mind. We just need a handful of like-minded people to catalyze change for a better future," he says.
His message to the young generation: "There is a Greek proverb - 'A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in'. Our great grandfathers created a great society. We enjoyed the shade and fruits of trees which they planted. And the best example for this were the trees from Valencia to Jeppu. They were so well aligned alongside the road. Somebody thought of us 50 years ago, and now what did we do? These trees need to be re-planted by our younger generations including me. That's my simple message."
Elaborating on the Vruksha.com venture, he says, "Vruksha.com is a unique portal for documenting trees in urban areas by taking tree census using the scientific approach of geo tagging trees. Each tree in a chosen ward or locality is documented by taking parameters like species, approx height, girth, GPS location, birds and animals observed on that tree and pictures. Vruksa.com is the first of its kind project in India implemented in Bengaluru. About 3,000-plus trees have been documented in Bengaluru so far.
"I do not want to take any credit for the work Vijay Nishanth and his team have put on Vruksha.com. However, I have been working with him to understand and learn the importance of urban forests and volunteering whenever need be, escpecially on weekends for the last one year. Also, I have been part of the 'Youth for Seva' or YFS team. We have collectively documented about 1,000 trees in a span of 4 weekends in a 5-km stretch on Bannerghatta road, Bengaluru," he explains.
The Mangaluru City Corporation was granted the permission to cut these trees with a condition that saplings twice the number of trees cut must be planted and nurtured. We hope this will not go in the same line as construction of footpaths, which, if at all, are laid many years after the roads are concreted.