The need to increase greenery in cities and villages is at an all-time high, and more and more concerned people are advocating for large-scale tree plantations. The forest department of Chhota Udepur in Gujarat, for example, has undertaken plantation drives in the Chhota Udepur city as well as the forested areas.
However, even with a large scale pursuit of forestation, a persistent problem continues—that of the plastic bags in which small saplings are planted. You either need to bury the plastic bags along with the saplings while replanting them, or throw them away.
Either way, the bags contribute towards the damage of the environment since they are neither biodegradable nor a healthy element for the soil.
So, the Gujarat forest department came up with a simple solution to plant saplings temporarily before they settle in the soil for good.
While collecting garbage from the towns, the department observed that it primarily consisted of coconut shells—presumably thrown away by people after consuming coconut water at roadside stalls. District Collector, Sujal Mayatra, then proposed the idea that saplings be placed in coconut shells so that they can be planted in soil as is.
SK Puwar, the deputy conservator of forest in Chhota Udepur, Gujarat, told the Times of India, “The shells have been chopped from the bottom so that when the saplings are planted in the ground (along with the shells), there is enough room for roots to grow.
Since coconut shells are biodegradable, the plants will also not be affected. In fact, upon degradation, these shells will act as nutrients.”
In the first phase of the project, the forest department has planted about 1500 saplings in coconut shells. The advantage of using biodegradable waste as a carrier of plants is obvious—and it works both ways by helping in waste disposal and adding to the nutrient value of soil.
Speaking about the initiative, Mayatra said, “Nurturing the nursery is not our core job, but during our cleanliness drive, there was [an] accumulation of many coconut shells; therefore I proposed the idea to rear the plants. As the coconut shells will be used for saplings, waste management will also be easy, and it will also help in our goal of making Chhota Udepur a plastic-free district.”
The forest department is planning to distribute the coconut-reared saplings to citizens during the Van Mahotsav programme to be held in July.
This idea is undoubtedly a remarkably effective way to dispose of waste shells, provide biodegradable carriers to saplings and increase the nutrient value of soil. Kudos to the Gujarat forest department for their efforts!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)