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This Bengaluru-based volunteer group maintains over 800 saplings

Hasiru Ratha continues to care for trees: The 80-member strong volunteer group has planted, watered and maintained 800 saplings

Manya Nagaraj, retired assistant general manager of State Bank of Mysore, would never have imagined that he would one day lead a green initiative in Bengaluru. He plants and maintains trees in Bengaluru through Hasiru Ratha (green chariot).

When he retired four years ago, Nagaraj allocated a portion of his pension for a van to water plants. It started as a one-man mission, but soon had many volunteers. “His passion to make Bengaluru greener was inspiring and over two years 80 people — a mix of retired people and working professionals joined the mission,” says founding member Ananda Thirtha, a solid waste management expert.

This Bengaluru-based volunteer group maintains over 800 saplings

Hasiru Ratha works from 6 am to 8 am every day. “We work in four constituencies, covering Jayanagar 6th and 7th block, VV Puram, KR Road, Yediyur, Basavanagudi, Tata Silk Farm, NR Colony, Banashankari and parts of Padmanabhanagar. The epicentre was Yediyur, slowly the periphery is extending. Now we work in a radius of four to six kilometres,” states Nagaraj.

Apart from IT professionals, bankers and lawyers, the volunteers include H Shanbhag (retired general manager of Canara Bank), Rajashekar (retired assistant commissioner of customs), Dr Beeresh (a cardiologist) and Ramesh ( wholesale silver merchant).

Hasiru Ratha flagged off on World Environment Day, June 5, 2017 and has, as of now, planted, watered and maintained 800 saplings. They are also watering and taking care of 1,500 saplings that the BBMP has planted. “ BBMP gives us saplings free of cost. We also buy certain varieties from the Forest Department. We have planted pongamia, mahogany, burlu medicinal plant, jamun, khas khas tree, sampige and neem trees,” shares Nagaraj, who adds, that specific trees have been planted in certain areas to attract birds. “The Jamun trees on RV Road form a boulevard and attract birds. The fruits of the khas khas tree also attract migratory birds, while the burlu and neem trees on DVG Road keep the air and environment clean.”

This Bengaluru-based volunteer group maintains over 800 saplings

Nurturing the greens

Talking of the maintenance of saplings and mature trees, says Ananda, “The scorching heat from February to May demands daily watering. We plant saplings only during the rainy season with red soil and compost from Hasiru Ratha. The rest of the months we monitor them for their health, identify them and water them accordingly.”

Hasiru Ratha makes plant guards to keep them safe from pests and cattle. The lock-down will not affect watering the plants Ananda says. “It is our dharma to water plants. We water them at night without disturbing others and avoid human contact.” All planting work and maintenance work, however, will have to wait.”

About the water requirement Nagaraj says is “300 litres a day in summer and around 600 litres a month during non-summer months”. Sourcing water has always been a challenge. “There are many philanthropists who have asked us to use their water. We have permission from BIT College on KR Road to take water from their premises. A bungalow on DVG Road offers water, we also get free supply from some apartments and from Jain Temple. We do not use tanker water,” shares Nagaraj, who is positive about funds. “I have no issues. All we need are volunteers.”

This Bengaluru-based volunteer group maintains over 800 saplings

Nagaraj, who was brought up in Chikkamangalur, had planted 50 plants in his neighbourhood. “I would take water on my scooter and water them.” Reading about Saalumarada Thimakka in 1985 was a turning point in his life. “Till then it was a passion, but after reading about Thimakka and her husband, Bikkala Chikkayya planting 8,000 trees in 80 years and looking at every tree as their child, inspired me.”

Hasiru Ratha’s WhatsApp group posts details of the work undertaken every day to help volunteers. “These days we receive calls from residents with requests for saplings to be planted in their neighbourhoods,” reveals Nagaraj. “Whoever is available joins us,” says Nagaraj adding that the tree doctor Vijay Nishanth recently joined Hasiru Ratha in Basavanagudi.

Call 98459 04630 for details.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 4:06:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/meet-the-team-that-cares-for-trees-in-bengaluru/article31181392.ece

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