Coimbatore’s citizens can breathe easier, thanks to the efforts of Siruthuli, an NGO dedicated to creating a cleaner environment in the city. Siruthuli’s efforts to create lung spaces in the arid climate of Coimbatore has led to thousands of trees being planted across the city.
In 2005, an initiative titled “Pasumai Payanam,” was inaugurated by then-President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
It was the beginning of a mission to plant 1.5 million trees in and around the city, one for each member of the population.
“As an environmental NGO, we dream of increasing the green cover in the city and of creating urban forests. Our Managing Trustee Ms Vanitha Mohan says the emphasis should be on air and water which acts as our basic requirement for survival,” says Vanitha Mohan, Managing Trustee, in a conversation with The Better India.
What resulted was a series of mass plantation drives in association with various public and private enterprises. The organisation would identify land, which could be effectively converted into an urban forest and then proceeded to create partnerships with local schools and organisations. They also use the Miyawaki technique of plantation.
On the other hand, Siruthuli also takes its plantation programs to schools, as a way to educate the children.
Known as the Seed to Sapling (S2S) program, the organisation gives students seeds, soil, and other materials, to nurture a plant from seed to sapling. Once the sapling reaches a height of 4 feet, the organisation uses it for their plantation drives. You can read more about their educational initiatives here.
Today, Siruthuli has nurtured over 6 lakh trees in and around Coimbatore. The 60,000 trees they have planted at Anna University, are part of their plantation drives and are maintained by the staff and students of the campus.
Often we hear about thousands of saplings being planted, but we never hear about what happens next. Due to maintenance issues, unfortunately, many saplings never become permanent trees.
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So, how does Siruthuli ensure that saplings definitely become trees, and that these trees become a part of making Coimbatore greener?
She says, “We try to carry out plantations in institutions and campuses, rather than on roadsides where maintenance is an issue. Also, the Apex Members of Siruthuli conduct frequent visits to the sites to keep track of the maintenance of the saplings”.
Apart from this, all the plantation sites are equipped with drip irrigation facilities to ensure better sustainability of the saplings.
However, the operation comes with its own share of challenges.
“Availability of space is one of the biggest challenges we face. Due to rapid urbanisation, there is hardly any barren land available for the plantation drives. Sometimes, the availability of saplings can also be a major issue, especially the cost to nurture and maintain them,” she says.
Despite these hindrances, Siruthuli is optimistic that they can make Coimbatore a better place to live in. They continue to organise plantation drives, and grow trees.
“Eventually, we want to create an urban forest inside the city, increasing the biodiversity. We hope to plant close to 1 lakh saplings every year, which will serve as potential lung space for citizens of Coimbatore,” she explains.
Siruthuli has also been involved in rescuing and reviving Coimbatore’s collapsed water tables. You can read more about how they helped refresh groundwater sources here.