Monday, April 28, 2008

Ugadi plants – three weeks on

It has been 21 days. And the saplings planted in a Vijayanagara public park are coming up well. Never mind MUDA’s yet un-kept promise to provide a waterline for the plants. The park has been dug up right through, awaiting pipe-laying and water connection that has to be given from an adjacent park. The contractor who did that job is said to be holding back, presumably, because MUDA has yet to settle his bills.

The mud-line dug through the park, awaiting water connection.

Sapgreen duo – Anil and Ashwin – who have been chasing officials reckon that the MUDA water pipeline would probably have to wait till the Karnataka assembly elections are over – “officials are busy with election work”. Some of us may be naïve enough to ask, ‘what has elections got to do with MUDA settling a contractor’s bill, for a job that has already been done?’

Anyway, watering of the Ugadi plants has gone on, thanks to enlightened benevolence of a resident close to the park; and the generous offer of Mr Ananthanarayan, principal of Anantha Geetha Vidyalaya to provide water. He is known in the neighbourhood as a tree-lover and has planted a row of trees on his school-front roadside.

Row of roadside trees in front of Anantha Geetha Vidyalala

During our visit to the park on Sunday we noticed a Sapgreen employee bringing pots of water from a tank at a nearby house construction site. And the Ugadi plants are being watered because of the benevolence of this resident. Hopefully, this arrangement can be kept in place till the third week of May when monsoon expected to set in.

Meanwhile, an elderly resident sitting with four friends on the concrete slab of a roadside culvert, took us to be city corporation officials. He said plant-and-forget has been the history of saplings planted in the park so far. Referring to our visit he said he had seen this happening (tree-planting) twice in earlier years; and the plants died for want of care. He chose to speak for the culvert sitters.

Anil told the skeptics that things would be different this time; and no tree would die. Unconvinced, the elderly resident observed that this was what they all said while planting. And after the ceremony and photo-taking they all disappeared, never to return. Here is a challenge for Anil and Sapgreen. The way to change their mind is proper upkeep of the plants in the park.

Mr Krishna Vattam, Mr E R Ramachandran, and I tried reasoning with the ‘culvert panchayat’, saying it was as much their responsibility as Sapgreen’s, if only because residents are the immediate beneficiaries of the tree-planting in the park. The spokesman of the group, still unconvinced, said such community involvement ‘worked only abroad’. He seemed to think that tree-care was the responsibility of those who plant them. He knew of Thimmakka, but reckoned that every one ‘can’t be so lucky with media and get the credit for what she did’.

Can anyone think of a better definition for cynicism? Anyway, if the ‘culvert panchayat’ was skeptical about this enterprising tree-planting effort, there were others in the locality whose complaint was that Sapgreen hadn’t done enough to create public awareness about their initiative. Prof. Kiran Kumar walking his dog around the park observed us from afar, tinkering with the saplings. We walked up to engaged him in tree-talk.

Tinkering with a three-week old neem in the park

That Prof. Kumar knew of Mr Vattam (with whom he had once shared the top table at a college function) helped matters. He readily volunteered to help Anil-Ashwin get in touch with other residents. Ashwin, who has already met Prof. Kumar, could count on him to further the green message in the area. Other things Sapgreen could try are:

1) Keep residents informed about Sapgreen’s tree-planting calendar. The company planted five more saplings in the park on Sunday (April 27), but none of the residents we spoke to were aware of the event.

2) Put up a signboard with the message – Saplings in this park, planted with Sapgreen’s help, are maintained by residents and the boys cricketing in the park.

3)Spread the message among nearby schools – Anantha Geetha, JSS and a couple of others – to encourage newly admitted students – LKG and primary classes – to plant saplings to mark the event. Their parents can watch their children growing with the trees they planted when they joined school.

No comments: