20,000 saplings and counting: a mission to turn Chennai green

Updated - November 20, 2023 11:08 am IST

Published - November 19, 2023 10:30 pm IST - CHENNAI

Vijaya Bhaskaran planting sapling at Alwarper area in Chennai.

Vijaya Bhaskaran planting sapling at Alwarper area in Chennai. | Photo Credit: S.R. Raghunathan

Tucked away in a little corner on Alwarpet Street sits the tailor shop of D. Vijaya Baskaran, 72. Nearly 40 years ago, his health forced him to take a sabbatical from his business and prompted him to pursue a hobby.

He started planting saplings in and around Alwarpet. Over the years, there was a role reversal. Stitching took a back seat, while he devoted a great deal of time every month to not only planting saplings but also nurturing them until it was needed. At some point, he resumed tailoring so that he could run his family — and spend on planting saplings.

Help from Corporation

Mr. Baskaran says he has planted over 20,000 saplings. “I would get a lot of saplings from the Forest Department and the Chennai Corporation. They have been very helpful. Then I served with Exnora and as a tree warden for the Forest Department for a while. Some of companies too had me as their coordinator for planting saplings across the city. A few shops gave assistance for buying tree guards. Looking back, I think all their help contributed significantly,” he says. His daughters and family stood by him, he says with pride.

One gone, two in

Mr. Baskaran says he makes it a point to listen to the speeches of environmentalists which inspire him to do better. Every time he read about a tree being pulled down somewhere, he decided to plant two more saplings. Over the years, he has planted the saplings of Mahua, Bulletwood, Jamun, Orchid, Gulmohar and copper pod in areas including Alwarpet, T.T.K. Road, Eldams Road, Sriram Nagar, Kotturpuram, Nandanam, Boat Club, St. Mary’s Road and those in Tiruvallur district. The only time he stopped this activity was during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I haven’t given up tailoring as yet. I can’t possibly live without listening to the thrumming of the sewing machines. But, today, I realise that what started as a mere pastime has become a life-changing exercise for me. It gives me happiness and peace that I have given back to society in some way,” he adds.

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