Chennai

A greening exercise canters along

Though slow, a Miyawaki initiative in Sholinganallur seems to move steadily on a sustainability track

It was going to be off the beaten track — a “forest” raised in a burial ground. It did raise a lot of expectations, followed by some disappointment over its pace. It had reduced to a trot. And that was for a good reason — as we know now.

The initiative is about raising a Miyawaki-style plantation on a parcel of land at a burial ground in Sholinganallur.

Recently, R. Suresh of the ecology sub-committee of the Federation of OMR Residents Association (FOMRRA) and Sneha Kuryan Reddy of Community Leadership Circle unveiled a part of the work done so far, and the project seems to be proceeding well on a sustainability track.

The concept of “closing the loop” is today the bedrock of sustainable farming and greening, and there are elements in the initiative suggesting an adherence to it.

Suresh, who heads the ecology sub-committee of FOMRRA, told this writer, a lot of time and resources are going into preparing the soil in a multi-layered fashion. Horses play a role in this preparation.

Sneha Kuryan Reddy, a resident of Sholinganallur, who has been in this initiative from the ground floor, was instrumental in getting the Chennai chapter of Community Leadership Circle (CLC) on board. CLC is a Facebook programme to empower local communities to effect positive changes.

Her association with the Chennai Equitation Centre (CEC) has helped.

Sholinganallur-based CEC offers training in horse-riding and equestrian sports with its stable of 50 horses. At the Centre, pits are dug regularly to deposit horse dung, always mixed with the rice straws used as bedding material for the horses. The pits are then closed, and the horse dung allowed to turn into manure.

“The Chennai Equitation Centre allowed us to take four truckloads of horse manure for free, and they are willing to provide us with more,” says Sneha.

At the burial ground — known as the housing board area burial ground — besides the heap of horse manure, there is excavated soil, and a carefully dug trench.

“The horse manure is already three-fourth of the way towards becoming hundred-percent manure, and which is why it does not emit any unpleasant smell,” explains Sneha.

The trench is being dug to four feet, and it will get filled up again, based on a carefully planned layering plan.

“Loose soil, and grass and leaves above that. We are recycling here. Before we started work on this parcel of land, it was overrun with tall grasses, and we are putting them back in the trench. Then, there would be soil, followed by one foot of horse manure. And then soil again, followed by compost, and then, the final bed of soil. We are planning to source compost from the the Sholinganallur and Chemmencherry compost yards,” says Sneha.

Suresh says there has been considerable support from official quarters.

“The Sholinganallur MLA as well as the Zone 15 officials of Greater Chennai Corporation have been extremely supportive of the initiative from the beginning. They have helped us with earth-excavation work and transport of horse manure, providing us JCBs and trucks. And they have promised us of a supply of compost. Besides, a few of those associated with the initiative have donated towards the cause,” says Suresh.

D. Suresh, zonal officer, Zone 15, “We are approaching this Miyawaki initiative as a pilot project, and if the results and good, we will encourage them to have it done in other parts of the Zone.”

Says Sneha, “At present, we are concentrating on raising trees in only one-fourth of the space allocated for the purpose. It will showcase the initiative.”

Free manure for a major mission

After supervising a morning training session, Kishore Futnani settles into a cosy chair for his morning cuppa. The “smog” comes up, by way of ice-breaker. Asked if he feels it, he answers it with a shake of the head. “I don’t,” he says, and looks around, and it is clear he is drawing attention to the greenery around.

Out there, at the Chennai Equitation Centre, what is necessary to nurture the trees, is available easily and naturally.

“The trees here have grown robust, feeding on horse manure. As part of the routine work, the process of ‘preparing’ horse manure is under way. In the morning, workers clear the stables of horse dung, which goes into pits. We also deposit leaf litter in the pits. This along with the rice-straw bedding material sticking to the horse dung, aids the composting process. When a pit is filled, we close it. And when someone needs horse manure, we open a pit and give it to them,” explains Kishore, who is managing trustee of Chennai Equitation Centre.

“Around 20 years ago, when there were agricultural fields, we would be giving raw horse dung, because farmers sought it and there was a huge every-day demand for it. Now, only farms far away seek it. We give away horse manure that are created at the Centre to institutions to help them with their greening projects. Individuals may want a sack of horse manure and we readily give it away. We are happy to support the Miyawaki-plantation initiative. We have given four truck-loads of horse manure, and are prepared to give as many more truckloads as would be required for this work,” says Kishore.

On what needs to be borne in mind while using horse manure to grow plants, Kishore says, “Horse manure generates a lot of heat, and so it should be used in smaller quantities.”

Achieving synergy

Harsha Koda, a member of the Core Commitee of FOMRRA, says that in the functioning of a few FOMRRA sub-committees, one could see the multiplier work at work. As the sub-committees are composed of people with strong interest or expertise in select areas, they are attracting the right resource people. The fact that CLC has started playing a big role in the Miyawaki project is a case in point. On the Miyawaki project, he says, “The ecology sub-committee seemed slow in the beginning. Now, they are doing a wonderful job. It is clear that they had done their homework before entering the field. They seem to have done quite a lot of research required to raise a Miyawaki plantation.”

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 6:56:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-green-exercise-canters-along-in-sholinganallur/article29931392.ece

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