News like the planned felling over 2600 trees in Aarey Colony in Mumbai to make space for a proposed car shed is disheartening to say the least. In an age where global warming is not just a term but an active phenomenon unfolding in front of us, cutting down forests is a self-defeating behaviour.
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Now let’s travel 1,722 kms from Mumbai to Ludhiana, Punjab where one man has created 25 mini forests ranging from 500 sq feet to 4 acres within just two years! Meet Indian Revenue Services (IRS) officer Rohit Mehra, who was named the Green Man of Ludhiana when he successfully created a vertical garden at the Ludhiana Railway station. After that he went on to create 75 vertical gardens in Punjab!
“People got to know about these vertical gardens and started contacting me to convert open spaces in their properties to forests,” says the 41-year-old. Rohit says that an industrialist from Jagraon, located about 40 km from Ludhiana, called him to convert a 6,000 sq ft of plot into a forest.
“This particular industrialist was running a rice bran oil factory and the area the factory was in was extremely polluted. He wanted to counter the emissions by creating a forest in the plot,” explains Rohit.
Since, Ludhiana is a hub of industries, the pollution scenario in Ludhiana is worrisome so much that sometimes schools declare holidays for three to four days at a stretch, informs Rohit. When he received the request, Rohit did not know much about creating such forests. Hence, began his research on how to create forests in a short duration.
The Miyawaki technique and the Vrikshayurveda
This is when Rohit came across the Japanese technique of Miyawaki. Broadening his knowledge base on the techniques of growing trees quickly, he also turned to ancient Indian texts like the Vrikshayurveda that outlines the concept of the ancient science of growing plants and forests.
“Interestingly, this ancient text imbibed the techniques mentioned in the Miyawaki method. The soil is dug about 2.5 feet deep and is then mixed with manure made from leaves, cow dung and other kinds of compost. Even agricultural waste like stubble, rice husk etc is added to improve the fertility of the soil,” he explains.
After this, different varieties of trees are grown together in a staggered pattern. Most of the plants chosen are indigenous like Neem, Amla, Harad, Bael, Arjuna, Moringa, Gulmohar, Bargad, and Kaner, among others.
In recognition of Rohit’s work, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has tied up with him to convert open spaces near industries in Ludhiana to curb pollution. Out of the 25 jungles now, at least seven to eight of them are in industrial areas.
And that is not all, as even individuals, institutions and organisations approach him with the same request. “There was this one industrialist who contacted me to make a jungle in his farmhouse. As his mother had lung issues, he wanted me to convert half an acre of land into a mini forest for cleaner air,” he says.
Rohit has also created a mini-forest in Ludhiana’s Gurudwara Dukhniwaran and named it, Nanak-Van dedicated to 550 years of Guru Nanak Dev. “Different communities of people from these organisations, industries and NGOs volunteer to help me during the plantation process which creates a sense of community and awareness,” smiles Rohit.
Other work and challenges
Despite people’s support, Rohit says that it is often difficult to find free space to create these forests in an urban area. “Also, convincing people of the benefits of jungles over grass-covered farmhouses is difficult,” he says.
Regardless, Rohit continues with his work and is also involved in another initiative where he collaborates with schools, organisations and other institutions to create seed balls. These seed balls comprise of clay, manure, nutrients and seeds.
“One interesting collaboration was with a local cricket league where the winner of the tournament was not just judged on the number of runs the team scored but also on the number of seed balls made,” he shares.
Rohit has visited all over the country sensitising school children and adults alike on the importance of green cover.
“We are literally living in a time bomb where the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe are contaminated. I want to educate and inspire masses while teaching them the importance of ecology. In the next five years, I want to create 1,000 jungles across the country,” says the enthusiastic IRS officer as he signs off.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)