‘Neralu’ is aimed at reminiscing about the Garden City

Tree lovers in the city have come together to organise ‘Neralu’, a unique citizen-led urban tree festival to reminisce about the Garden City that was Bangalore and to create an appreciation for what is left of its green cover.

The two-day volunteer-driven initiative, scheduled to be held on February 8 and 9 at the Bal Bhavan in Cubbon Park, will see workshops on tree journaling and identification; documentaries and films exploring local and global narratives on trees; a photo exhibition by Bangalore-based photographers, storytelling events and a mega “hug-a-tree campaign”.

“This festival is about appreciating the existence of trees and to find personal connections to trees. Trees mean many things to many people and more often than not, they go beyond beauty,” said Uma Bharath, one of the organisers of Neralu.

Satellite studies have shown that there has been a quadrupling of built up area in Bangalore between 1973 and 2007, with a corresponding loss in vegetation by over 30 per cent, and a shrinking of water bodies by 61 per cent.

The research study conducted by Centre for Sustainable Technologies at the Indian Institute of Science ‘Land surface temperature with land cover dynamics’ also explores the fallout of urbanisation. Loss of vegetation, combined with a high rate of concretisation has raised land surface temperature by 2 degree Celsius in the last two decades, a huge jump by climatology standards.

“It is not the lack of knowledge that is costing us, but the lack of responsibility. Parks, forests and lakes are deliberately destroyed and no effort is made to redeem the lost ecology,” said T.V. Ramachandra, one of the scientists who conducted the study.

Bangalore can strive towards “a unique identity as an urban centre in harmony with nature”, believes Deepak Srinivasan, another organiser. “We owe our existence to these trees. Bangalore would have choked without them. But we don’t really need another generic city,” he says. Globalisation has indeed caught up with India, but it does not always have to be a ‘tree-versus-development’ debate.

Organisers want the festival “to create a sense of belonging in all Bangloreans” who long for the Bangalore of its original landscape. Storytelling events and games will be organised for children. “Children can change the minds of their parents. We want them to understand that spending some time here (Cubbon Park) is just as good and fun as going to a mall on the weekends,” said Ms. Bharath.

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