Hyderabad’s growing green space: city now hosts country’s largest Miyawaki forest

Spread over 18 acres in Kavaguda near the airport, the forest has 126 species of native fruit and flowering trees and is a birds’ paradise

November 05, 2022 08:41 am | Updated 09:17 am IST

View of the Miyawaki forest at Woods in Shamshabad

View of the Miyawaki forest at Woods in Shamshabad

When bird photographer Sriram Reddy reached a village in Kavaguda, eight kilometres from the Shamshabad airport, at the crack of dawn, he was stepping into a Miyawaki forest, not expecting to capture much. However, when he sighted more than 10 species of birds within a short span, he cancelled all other plans for the next few weeks and returned to that spot.

Spread over 18 acres, this is the country’s largest Miyawaki forest, followed by one in Gujarat, spread over 14 acres.

Sriram, who has documented 1,013 (out of the 1,350) bird species in India, says “In three days, I spotted over 50 species of birds. Apart from the resident birds like the Tickell’s blue flycatcher, barn owl, red-collared dove and barred buttonquail, I spotted winter visitors like the rosy starling and lesser whitethroat. Mind you, this is just the beginning of the bird-watching season. We can expect to spot many more.”

View of the Miyawaki forest at Woods in Shamshabad

View of the Miyawaki forest at Woods in Shamshabad

Developed by the Stone Craft group headed by Kirthi Chilukuri and Anusha Podduturi, the 18-acre Miyawaki forest at Kavaguda is part of their 62-acre real estate venture called Woods. The duo preferred to build a Miyawaki forest over the more common fancy landscaping in their venture with an aim to build a society where people stay and grow together amid nature.

The Miyawaki method — pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki — helps build dense, fast-growing forests with native plants. Starting in 2019, the forest in Kavaguda already has over 4 lakh trees that attract birds, butterflies and dragonfly species. Assisted by TRST01 consultancy, , the Stone Craft team has GI-tagged each tree in the forest.

Resident birds at Woods: Purple-rumped sunbird

Resident birds at Woods: Purple-rumped sunbird | Photo Credit: Sriram Reddy

Keerthi explains, “At the beginning of COVID-19 when we acquired the land (of 62 acres), we had no idea of how we would develop it. Later, when the world faced a scarcity of oxygen cylinders during the pandemic, we realigned our plans.”  That led to the conceptualisation of building a forest that would be self-sustaining and also ensure continuous oxygen supply to nearby areas. After much study and brainstorming, , the duo zeroed in on the Miyawaki method.

Resident birds at Woods: Barn owl

Resident birds at Woods: Barn owl | Photo Credit: Sriram Reddy

Thereafter, Stone Craft created a team comprising forest officials and architects to identify native trees and prepare the soil in the right way. “We studied native tree species in a 50-kilometre radius and found 186 native trees. Then we visited various forest nurseries across India to source the saplings,” explains Anusha. The idea, she says, is to connect and interact and co-exist with nature.

They first prepared the ground with a mix of sand, red soil and coco peat. “The soil composition is important to retain moisture. To this soil, we added natural manure sourced from a dairy farm. Following good rains, the method saw a forest growing rapidly,” she adds.

Now the forest has 126 species of native fruit and flowering trees like custard apple, Indian hog plum, gulmohar, java olive, asoka, java plum, Indian soapberry, tamarind, neem and peepal. They have also translocated 40 banyan trees that would have otherwise been axed.

View of the woods

View of the woods

Kirthi adds, “To observe how different species respond to each other, we created a nursery where we studied the trees and their growth before going ahead to create the forest. We just kept planting and before we knew it, we ended up covering 18 acres.”

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