As awareness of green cover rises, Madurai marches towards leafy surroundings

Imagine coming out of a wedding with the customary ‘tamboolam’ or gift bag and knowing that you are going to add to the green cover of your city. One might wonder how it could it be — but the ‘Project Tamboolam’ initiative has made it possible.

Saravanan, a volunteer with the project, says: “This initiative was started by Isha Foundation under ‘Project Green Hands’ to create an awareness of environment protection by ensuring that wedding guests get to take home saplings as a remembrance of the occasion.”

Environmentalists and organisations such as ‘Madurai Green’ have been taking efforts to create an awareness among the public about the importance of green surroundings.

At a time when high-rise apartments and office buildings are fast replacing gardens, parks and other open spaces, people who run nurseries in the city say there is a healthy attitude towards keeping one’s surroundings green. “Even though free saplings are on offer, there are customers who insist on buying their own saplings. Isn’t that in itself a health trend?” says J. Amudha of Pasumai Vana Pengal self-help group that looks after the Forest Department’s nursery on Race Course Road for the past 10 years.

“As many as 30,000 saplings have been sold this year. Species such as ‘pungan,’ neem, tamarind and rain tree are most sought after,” she says. Scanty rainfall and water scarcity have however disrupted the upkeep and maintenance of trees in institutions and homes, she says.

“People in Tiruchi and Kanyakumari district are particular that their houses are in the midst of greenery. The same is not the case in places such as Madurai, Ramanathapuram and Dindigul where water is scarce,” says K. Sonai who runs Kumaran Nursery Garden at Vadipatti, a place frequented by buyers from Tiruchi and Kanyakumari district.

“For gardens too, plants such as rose need pure water and they don’t survive long owing to the brackish water in the district. So it is important that people pick species which can survive the weather conditions,” Mr. Sonai adds.

Nesting boxes

M. Rajesh, Assistant Professor at American College and secretary of the College’s ‘Green Club,’ says having trees around institutions and houses is absolutely necessary to conserve biodiversity. He says the club has been working towards conservation of sparrows in the city and has recently started an initiative under which nesting boxes are distributed to residents. “Laying a concrete path around our houses as it is easier to maintain might seem like an immediate solution to keep the place clean. But leaving the soil open and planting a few trees will involve some work, but will be extremely satisfying and beneficial,” he says.

Less green cover

The forest department has been doing its duty to increase the foliage in the district which has been endowed with nearly 40,000 hectares of reserve forests. “While the norms demand that the green cover must be at least 33 per cent of the total area of district, Madurai has only 17 per cent,” says District Forest Officer A. S. Marimuthu. The forest department distributes tree saplings for free. As a part of the Massive Tree Planting (MTP) programme, the department has distributed around 5,000 tall seedlings which are taller than 6 feet and more than 1 lakh small seedlings this year.

“Both government and private institutions and organisations wishing to increase the green cover in their compounds contact us for saplings. We focus more on institutions and enclosed spaces rather than planting saplings on the roadside since the trees are felled or cut for infrastructure development,” Mr. Marimuthu says.

“Institutions such as the Tamil Nadu Polytechnic College, the District Police Office and many schools and colleges have been regularly seek our assistance to make their campus greener,” he says.

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