“The Diary of a Greening Volunteer”

 

By: Krishnakumar, V.G

 It was a stunning experience to me, while I was selected for the Forest Rangers training at Southern Forest Ranger’s College, Coimbatore in 1981. I belong to the coastal area of Kerala, which has the canopy of only coconut palms and jungles formed by the weeds like Eupatorium etc. The only wildlife I could get familiarized was the caparisoned elephants paraded during the annual festival of our temple.

The 365 days training was a turning point of my life, not only of mine, but also of the 150 forest ranger trainees from the whole of India. The most interesting session was of the Social Forestry, which was just booming in our country at that time. Our instructor Late Shri S. Viswanathan, (Asst. Conservator of Forests, Tamil Nadu Forest Department) took us to the amazing work of greening barren lands through his magical words.

At that time, the practice of Social Forestry scheme was just on the startup stage. The alarming stage of vast deforestation and plundering of forest wealth on inadequate conservation laws was telling on the ecology of the nation. Felling of trees degraded the land and perennial rivers and hydroelectric dams were filled with eroded soil leading to the death of those boons of nature which were the water suppliers and powerhouses of the nation.

If those deforested areas were left as such, it would lead to further soil erosion and global warming would also be increased. So the long vision authorities decided to regreen those areas by planting suitable tree species. Their vision was to ensure the following:

  1. Protecting the nature.
  2. Prevention of soil erosion.
  3. Restoration of flora.
  4. Thereby increasing the micro and macro fauna.
  5. Increasing rural employment potential.
  6. Increasing the fuelwood availability.

World Bank has generously funded the noble scheme. Unfortunately, some of the corrupt bureaucrats misused the scheme to siphon the money to their pockets through illegal means, including false statements of developing plantations in unknown areas. More than 1 lakh forest officials were penalized for the corrupt practices under social forestry scheme in various states.

Now, let me come to my personal experience as a greenery man. While I was working in the raw material depot of the paper mill, I could find vast areas of unutilized stretches of land in the yard in the form of slopes and other such locations. During the monsoon period, I could find that reeds (a variety of bamboo) in the stacks used to sprout with profuse roots. I collected those sproutings with roots and planted in selected areas where water was available. I used the help of contract workers to protect those plantings from climbers. After one year almost all of the plantings were established.

It was in 1996, I was appointed as the first officer of our farm forestry scheme- promotion of various pulpwoods including bamboos in the marginal farmer’s land through NGOs. As a pilot scheme, the target was only 10,000 numbers of seedlings. In that scheme, we included saplings of jack, mango and gooseberry too to get the response of the public. Our modus operandi was simple. Selected NGOs were asked to inform us their requirement of saplings of eucalyptus, acacia, mangium, reeds, casuarina, albizia, bamboos, mango, jack and gooseberry. The demand was hefty. The available stock was distributed to the selected NGOs in proportion to their demand. The distribution was confined to the non-forest district of Kerala, i.e., Alappuzha district. 21 organizations took part. It was an interesting feature that there were more beneficiaries for pulpwood saplings than for fruit bearing species like jack, mango etc.! People need only those economically important species!

After the distribution, we conducted the post distribution survey on the survival of the distributed saplings. Results were encouraging. The landowners were happy to see the responsible officials visiting their land to see the planted saplings.

The results were reflected in the next year’s program. Quantity was increased. In order to make the public aware on the raising of arboreal nursery, we selected few NGOs in hamlets and trained them. Different species need different pre-sowing treatments, which were Greek to them! For example, seeds of acacia species need treatment like scarification in light acid or putting the seeds in boiling water followed by cooling down for 12 hours. Fearing the failure of the treatment or ignorance of the fact, it was my duty to give those NGOs the treated seeds, courtesy to my late mother and aunty who helped me in those occasions! Even after the sowing and sprouting of these seeds, workers of NGOs were reluctant to believe me as the broad leaves (phyllodes) did not emerge and only primary leaves had emerged. Only after the emergence of the phyllodes, they got relieved off the tensions. There are other common trees like gooseberry which need pre-sowing treatments. The seed of gooseberry will not germinate, if it is dibbled. Seeds of gooseberry have thick seed coat. Hence, the seeds will be applied with a light application of kerosene and light flame will be ignited and immediately put off. If these treated seeds are sown, new saplings of gooseberry can be developed.

During my tenure as the farm forestry officer of Hindustan Newsprint Limited, I experimented with the plantings in those land masses which was branded as unproductive or useless like swamps, pure silica sand patches etc. Selection of ideal species for the location, adopting appropriate planting techniques including mound planting in swampy areas helped to green at least few patches.

While distributing new species, I used to plant at least 2 to 3 numbers of such saplings in my land to note the growth rate and other features. This helped to foresee the growth of distributed saplings in distant places.

The role of an employee changes as per the needs of his employer and being an employee my role also got changed after 3 years. But again an opportunity came in the form of transfer to North East unit as the head of Tissue Culture Unit of that mill. There also, the swampy area of about 0.5 Ha of land was planted with different varieties of bamboos to develop a bamboo setum so that ideal species can be selected by interested farmers for farming.

In my free times at home, we used to cultivate different vegetables which give immense pleasure to mind and body as well a feeling of self-reliance for food.

Yes, greening is a pleasure giving job, both to self and to society.

About Author: Well experienced Forestry personnel in all fields of forestry in paper industry. Raising plantations of pulpwood like eucalyptus, acacia, bamboo etc. Experience in Tissue Culture laboratory (from the installation to production stage), extraction works and storage. Well experienced in public activities like Farm forestry. His Specialties: Forestry- plantation, tissue culture, extraction and community forestry.

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