Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A search engine that plants trees

Ecocho.com is eco-friendly search engine which plants five trees for every 1000searches made on its website. Ecocho uses Yahoo’s search technology to power searches made on their site and the resulting trees are purchased from advertising revenue generated on the site.

Ecocho has planted 6,571 trees at the time of posting this message. I know this. because I have made the ecocho search engine the home page on my computer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Green-STEP: Making a difference to the environment

Green-STEP is one major break through in my personal life. With the help from like minded friends and my own resolve to make a difference to the environment I created a web site titled Green-STEP. I invite readers of this blog community to our web-site. And let me tell you that the moment you pledge yourselves to these or any other green measures in your own lives, then this becomes your own web site!
Recently Green-STEP organised an awareness program on plastic bags/covers pollution problem in Malleswaram, Bangalore on 6th Dec 2008. This event was covered by an article appearing in 'THE HINDU' newspaper dated 16th Dec 2008. On seeing the response/results, for once I feel I have been in action in my own life.
'STEP' stands for 'Sharing Thoughtful Environmental-friendy Practices'. In green-STEP website we have shared information on how each one of us as individuals can take simple but powerful 'ACTIONS' to make a difference to our environment. To give you an idea about Green-STEP, it talks about following issues:-
1) Urgent need to switch to cloth bags and avoid the highly polluting Plastic Bags.
2) Reduce, Reuse and if both are not possible then recycle! Be it plastics, paper, glass, steel, aluminium, brass, copper, etc., We must recycle all these and more, even if we can afford the world cannot afford such resource wastages.
3) In case you use an automobile, read how you can save fuel by reducing the virtual capacity of your fuel tank. Save fast depleting resources of mother earth at the same time add to your own bank balance:-)
4) Never drive your bike or car all alone. Drop some one on the way from a bus stand or auto stand. What does one loose by dropping some one on the way? Nothing! But what we gain is huge, we can arrest the maddening addition of vehicles to our city roads which is infact strangulating the smooth movement for the current road users. Unless we do something to this exponential addition of vehicles to our city roads, sooner are later we will definitely hit a wall and we will not even know what hit us!

There can be many more simple and effective green-STEPS which the readers of this blog may be aware and may want to share with the entire world. Do write in to me on sriram.greenstep@gmail.com and also feel free to tell me what you feel about these green-STEPs spoken about in this web site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A rakhi for trees; vriksha bandhan

The Taru Bandhan ritual being practised in the tribal heartland of Jharkhand has helped restore and conserve hundreds of acres of forestland, writes Moushumi Basu, a Jharkhand-based journalist.

The decade-old ritual was the initiative of a village school teacher Mahadev Mahato from Dudhmatia in Hazaribagh district. In her article Moushmi Basu reckoned that Mahato has helped restore nearly 25,000 acres of forestland - “For the natives of Jharkhand, the forest is an inseparable part of their life; why not include trees as part of our family and rituals,”. Palamau, Dhanbad, Chatra, Koderma and Hazaribagh are some of the districts that have taken the initiative in propagating this unique “green tradition”. Read the full article...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heritage Trees: Five, and counting

The committee for protection of heritage trees has named a 300-year old tamarind as a heritage tree on the Gangothri campus. It is the fifth one to be identified for the heritage status by the committee, comprising 30 plus environment enthusiasts in Mysore.

The Hindu reports that among other heritage trees identified by the committe are 1) the big banyan on T Narsipur Road;2) a peepul on Manasagangotrhi campus;and 3) a silk cotton in Curzon Park. The newspaper hasn't named the fourth one.

Would the committee fill us in on the location of this heritage tree? We could also do with their photos.

On the status of the Gangotri tamarind, committee spokseman Prof.Ramalingam said a major branch of the 300-year-old tree was in a state of decay; and that the tree has perhaps only a few more years of life left in it. The professor noted that tamarind was very susiptible to lightning strikes.

There are scores of other trees awaiting heritage cerification. Wouldn't it be nice if Prof. Ramalingam and others in the committee share their thoughts on the criteria for identifying a heritage tree? This would help tree lovers to recommend trees for the committee cerification.

Meanwhile we would like to draw the committee's attention to some of our 'finds'in the city. Not all of these tress may merit heritage status.
The banyan at the Baden Powell Public School. "I cherish the memory of this tree because here I spent my boyhood evenings as a scout and this beautiful banyan was the ideal spot for we scouts of the Ramblers' Scout Group to learn roping and earn a badge," says veteran journalist, Mr Gouri Satya.
This tree at a Dewan's Rd.temple must be as old as the temple.
This tree on the SJCE campus was phtographed by tree enthusiast Gagan K. He says he has more such photos in his archive, and would post them here,if the heritage committee would care to consider them.
An aged tree vandalised with graffiti at Pinjrapole. Wonder if such matters come within the purview of the committee to protect heritage trees. the photo was mailed to us by Prashant, an IT professional.
Another photo by Prashant taken at Mysore Pijrapole.
A massive tangle of drop-roots of an aged tree on JLB Road.
This tree at Hotel Metropole, JLB Rd., may not merit heritage status. But it might be worthwhile for the committee, with the support of the hotel management, to bring out a profile of this tree, its history, and the tales it might carry, for the benefit of environment-conscious tourists staying/visiting the hotel.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ad-lined Avenue

Ads may not grow on trees; but they sprout close to them on this tree-lined avenue.
Mysore is advertised as a heritage city. One wonders what could have prompted a heritage-conscious city administration to permit this.
When the hoardings first appeared a couple of years back there was public protest.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A walk around the lake

Nearly three years back I wrote about a stench from the lake and Kukkarahalli mo(u)rning walkers. Three days back we took a walk along the lake.
This stretch is more than half-way on the 3.5 km walkway round the lake; and those of us who have problem doing the whole round at a stretch could do with a bench for a stretch out,like these ones on the bund close to the main entrance.

A couple of these benches would have better use if they could be relocated on the farside of the lake.

The farside presents a picture of neglect.
This stretch is not just unpleasant to look at. It smells foul as well. A fresh coat of paint on the bridge is long overdue; the water under the bridge that hasn't been treated or cleaned for a while appears a fertile breeding ground for mosquito.

The green patch has crept into the main the water body.

Some scenic pictures. Photos don't lie, they say; but they don't tell all either. They don't smell,do they.

Better maintained spots on the lakeside;they make a visit to Kukkarahalli worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ramdass takes a power-walk

A much talked about politician in Mysore nowadays is Mr S A Ramdass,MLA.He is young, energetic,and proactive,notably, after he got nominated parliamentary secretarty to CM. Mr Ramdass doesn't wait for people to come to him with grievances; he reaches out to meet them in their own neighbourhoods, by taking a power-walk.

The BJP MLA sets out daily, on a morning walk that takes him to a diffferent locality each day. The walk keeps Mr Ramdass fit, physically;and helps him stay visible , politically.It is a two-in-one idea that ought to make every other politician wonder,'why didn't I think of this'.

Mr Ramdass has a bunch of people walking with him, even at 5.30 a m. His pre-dawn walks attract media attention. Neighbourhood residents await him with petitions and grievances. Municipal officials pay attention because they believe MrRamdass has CM's ears. This is not padayatra; it's power-walk, by a man who knows how to
use his position.

Friends of Roadside Trees believe Mr Ramdass can help push the green agenda during his morning walks.

1)Mr Ramdass can plant a sapling in every neighbourhood he visits; and appeal to residents to plant saplings on roadsides and other vacant public space in their
A tree-less patch on D Subbaiah Road, Devaraja Mohalla. The lone roadside tree was planted by a school boy living across the street. A pat in the back and word of praise for the boy by Mr Ramdass during his visit to this street (behind Rotary School) would motivate others.

2)The CM's aide, who admits to being religious minded, could promote the idea of devotees offering saplings in puja at their neighbourhood temples. The saplings blessed by the deity could either be planted on the temple premises or at one's own backyard.

Related item - Celebrate life; sponsor a sapling

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Landscaping sidewalks

In refreshing contrast to its sister institution,the Maharani's college on JLB Road has a well-laid out sidewalk. Maharaja's college, next building down the road presents a picture of neglect,with an outgrowth of partheneum. Two government educatonal institutions, located side by side, present contrasting pictures.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Memo to college principals

The department of collegiate education is reported to have sent out a circular asking principals to organise tree-planting on college campuses in Karnataka. Hopefully, we would get to see some action on this patch of green in front of the Maharaja's on JLB Road. The company that undertook to maintain this patch appears to have lost interest. The department circular is said to have asked college principals to co-ordinate their action with the horticulture and forest departments.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coastal erosion: A green wall for protection and for profit?

Let us forget the communal strife in Orissa for a moment and look at a natural calamity the state faces repeatedly. Frequent tidal waves and the soil erosion caused by them endanger the lives and properties of lakhs of people along the 480km shoreline of Orissa.

IIT Chennai and some other agencies are studying this issue and have reportedly submitted some preliminary recommendations. In the meantime, the Orissa Government has approached the Central Government for financial support for a Rs.7000 crore project to save the coastal villages from the ravages of the sea. The main focus appears to be on building protective walls along the shore.

There could be a far cheaper, more effective, eco-friendly and profitable project to prevent soil erosion. My suggestion is to try planting Morinda citrifolia (Noni) along the coast. This plant, which is endemic to India, is unfortunately on the endangered list now.

How do plants prevent soil erosion? When rain water runs off to lower levels or waves recede to the sea, they take away loosened soil with them. The stem of trees and the roots mitigate the erosive force of flowing water, thereby preventing soil being carried off. The native plants are best suited for this.

I took these photos in the coastal belt of Kerala.
Copyright reserved. Click on photos to enlarge.

Significantly, Morinda citrifolia (Noni) is also known as Indian mulberry and Beach mulberry. It tolerates saline and secondary soils, can withstand drought conditions and grow well on sandy beaches. It can attain a height of up to 20 feet and serve the dual purpose of preventing soil erosion and acting as a windbreaker. Normally stem cutting is used for propagation. The planting distance is about 15 feet apart. Once introduced, it will start growing wild.

The benefits of planting Morinda citrifolia are not confined to protection from coastal erosion. It is actually considered to be a wonder plant with immense medicinal values. India has known that for thousands of years. But the Western countries started taking note of this gift of nature only in the 1990s.

And, in less than two decades, the Noni (Morinda citrifolia) products, particularly the juice made from the fruit, have turned into a business that is worth billions of US dollars! By planting Noni (Morinda citrifolia) along the coastline the country can, apart from preventing soil erosion, capture a major chunk of the fast-growing Noni market.

Additionally, greening such a large area would help in reducing the carbon levels. And, it does not take long to feel the impact. Noni starts yielding in 18 months and has a productive life span of around 40 years!

The only negative point is that during flowering time the plant emits a foul smell.

Why not give it a try, at least in small stretches?

Read more about the plant at:

Medicinal Plants: Noni (Morinda citrifolia) planting for profit?

(Song of the waves - Parayil A. Tharakan Blog)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Urban Heat Islands

Have you herd of the term “Urban heat islands”? Next time your old uncle complains of rising temperatures in Mysore, you may want to listen more closely. UHIs are urban areas that are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural landscapes. The main causes of UHIs are typical “urbanization” strategies…tarred roads, RCC buildings, loss of garden spaces/ farms etc.  UHIs modify rainfall and warming patterns of not just the city, but its surrounding rural/forest areas too. See this wiki note on UHIs for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island. You could also check out http://www.urbanheatislands.com/.

Urban tree plantations are important UHI mitigation strategies.  So, what FORT Mysore is trying to promote is a very important activity which will ensure Mysore remains cooler, Mysoreans use less energy to keep their homes/offices cool, and that Mysore does not alter rainfall or temperature patterns of its surrounding rural landscapes too drastically.  

There has also been a lot of talk about “Green highways” in the developed world. For example, see http://www.astm.org/SNEWS/SO_2008/bryce_so08.html.  In the Bangalore-Mysore region, we seem to be taking a few steps backwards…by replacing our tree-lined highway with a cemented four-lane “hot”way.

These informative research articles might interest some of you:  



Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Writings on the board

The notice board says it all - about the maintenance of a green patch in front of the Maharaja's high school on JLB Road in Mysore. The writings on the board refer to corporate social (ir-)responsibility. The state of the notice board (which mercifully wipes out the name of the company that undertook maintain this space) smacks of inaction by the municipal authorities.

And,above all,it speaks of community's indifference to such violation of public space. The green patch in front of the Maharaja's high school, a heritage building on the tree-lined JLB Road,had once seen better days. The company that undertook to landscape this patch has evidently lost interest.
The municipal authorities (or is it MUDA) that take care of parks and public spaces that could do with landscaping appear to be unaware of the state of neglect or uninterested in doing anything to give a face-lift to the frontage of a heritage building.

This picture, of a sidewalk in San Jose, California, gives an idea of what is possible by way of landscaping even a narrow strip.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hyderabad - Bangalore - Is all the same?

People had told me that Hyderabad was a great place to see now. They said it had lot of fly-overs and wide roads and comfortable traffic. I asked them, can I take my son and wife to see the place. They said.. you must take them. I had the opportunity last week, and I went there with my son and wife. 

By the way, my son is One year and two months old now. He loves parks and watches curiously birds in the parks. He chases dogs and plays with kids in the park. If someone in the family doesnt take him out on a given day, he feels irritated and keeps pointing to the gate. And I thought, I can show him Hyderabad. So, off we went. And Hyderabad had everything, except trees. Hi-Tech city has beautiful buildings, but no trees, only rocky land. I visited Indian School of Business. Lush Green lawns and a bit of greenery inside, 100 yeards off the place.. nothing but rocky land. And when I asked why this was so, they said, we have no water to plant trees. And how would you get water if you didnt plant trees?

Bangalore had 200 lakes, I am told. Now hardly 10 remain. They dont have water and hence dont have trees at Hyderabad. We have lakes, but still we dont have the willingness to grow trees. Are we not being stupid? Everyone at Hyderabad said "You are from Banaglore! Wow! Its a nice place, cool and green!" Believe me that we their response. And we are making this city bare and naked in the name of modernization.

Know what my son loved there? The Nehru Zoological Park. We had planned to spend only a couple of hours there, but ended up spending the whole day under the shade of trees, while my son watched the lions and tigers, the birds and the monkeys in cages and was learning to imitate their sounds. His enthusiasm was at peak during that time. He didnt cry or even fuss about for anything. We had been to all other places like Golkonda, Salarjung Meuseum and Chilkur Balaji Temple, Lumbini Gardens and the like, but my sons response was the greatest when we were roaming around in fresh air under the trees.

He used to get irritated because of the hot weather in all places. He used to be ok for some time and then start cribbing for water or fussing around for something to eat and he never let us watch anything for a long time. But, in the zoo park, he was his own self. The very enthusiastic, curious, naughty and smiling young kid that he is. When we wanted to move away from a cage, he never let us move unless he had completely satisfied his curiosity. How much should he have longed for the fresh air of the park. And I know that all kids are like this. They love nature. They love fresh air. And what are we doing? Cutting down trees and destroying parks for widening roads!

If kids love nature, Bangalore Kids must love them the most. But, unfortunately we are taking what they love the most from them. I have seen parents coming to malls with babies and kids spending time in malls. What nonsense? Malls today aspire to be destinations of entertainment and have special kid zones. Parents leave the kids there while they do some shopping, and the kid gets to play in an Air-Conditioned environment. What a pity? In Bangalore, do you need an artificial air-conditioned environment for your kid? We have the ability to make our kids more happier in greener environments and all that we think of today is aritificially created "clean" environment. And we clear parks for creating Malls. I dont think we are going any closer to being modern.

Well thats about the size of my agony. Got anything to say about it? Post your comments and I would respond.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My trees...


I am new to this very interesting and active group. I am thrilled to know that there are people like you going around actively planting trees in your neighbourhoods. I would like to share a few scattered, random notes. I have carried these notes in my head for years, and I feel like sharing it with you since you might be able to appreciate them.  

I grew up in a tree-lined old area of Bangalore.  As a kid, on the way to school, I used to make it a point to "greet" two Akash mallige (Millingtonia hortensis) trees.  I worshipped these two tall, graceful trees.  Come September, their lovely white flowers lined the roads.  Sadly enough, one of them was cut down to widen the road. I wonder how long they will let the other tree remain in the crowded streets of Malleshwaram.

I have been watching trees all my life. Due to this, I have developed this strange gait while walking...head tilted up slightly, with very little attention being paid to where I put my next step. I have often tripped, stepped on muck and bumped into people. My landmarks across Bangalore used to be trees...and I rarely remembered street names or other features.  In the late 90s I moved out of Bangalore for a decade. And when I came back, I could not find my way around my home city. They had chopped down that lovely old Butea on 15th cross. Where were those Acacias on the way to school. Even those lovely temple trees in our neighbourhood gardens were gone.  

Anyone who watches trees, cannot help but note the differences between our cities w.r.t trees we plant along the roadsides.  New Delhi is one of my favourite urban zones. They have such lovely, tall native trees planted along the roads....Kusum /Sagade (Schleichera oleosa), Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Amal Tas/ Kakke (Cassia fistula), Jamum (Syzygium cumini), Mango (Mangifera indica) and many others. Such native trees are home to many more animals compared to exotics (i.e., from other countries) such as Eucalyptus, Australian Acacias, Rain tree, African tulip tree which we have planted along Bangalore/Mysore's streets.  A native tree has food to offer to our insects. These insects in turn are fed upon by several birds and mammals. Our natives have lovely flowers (Kakke, Flame of the forest etc), many provide wonderful shade (the list would be endless) and are easy to grow. Yet, urban forestry in Karnataka is monopolized by exotics. 

My grandfather was a very observant and knowledgeable man. He too grew up in Bangalore. But the trees he remembers from his childhood in the same neighbourhood are very different from what I saw when I was a kid. He used to talk about Tare, Allale, Honne, Sampige, Margosa, Nandi (see picture attached - thats not a Eucalypt, but our lovely Nandi) and other lovely trees that grew here. Slowly, these were cut down as the city expanded. Later, some streets were planted with exotics such as Mahogony, Tabebuia, Rain tree, African tulip tree, Australian acacias and so on.  Strangely enough, neither Margosa nor Sampige road in Malleshwaram have either of these trees lining them.  

More recently, as part of my work, I have been studying forest trees in the Niligiri landscape. For this purpose, I had to collect seeds and make seedlings of several native species common in the Deccan plateau (see picture). It has been a wonderful experience getting familiar with these lovely trees of our forests. I have given away most of my seedlings to interested  people in and around my study area.  If any of you are interested in procuring and planting such natives in your streets, you can buy such seedlings from the Keystone shop in Masinagudi or Mavanalla. These are villages on the road to Ooty, and these shops are located on the highway itself.   

If you want some inputs about how to identify and grow such native trees, I am always available. There is also vast quantity of literature (mostly contributed by Britishers who lived in India) on how to grow our trees.