I was hearing a thought leader only yesterday, speaking about saving the earth. She made a very valid point. She said, ‘The earth will take care of itself. She has survived through the Dinosaur Age, the Holocaust and many such grave occurrences. What we need to be worried about is our survival on the earth. We need to save our homes!’
This got me thinking, how can we truly ‘Save Our Backs’? What initiatives are being taken to make our world environment-friendly? With these thoughts at the back of my mind, I took my kids to the Lions Safari Park at Southern Avenue this Sunday. I met three different set of people who are doing their bit to make this world a better place to live in. People who are doing ordinary things of great impact – one of them is on a mission to remove plastic littered across the landscape of the city, the second a group of volunteers who wish to encourage cycling as a mode of transit to save fuel and reduce pollution, and the third an individual planting Neem Trees / Saplings across Kolkata.
It was the initiative of the third person that caught my fancy. Here was a 60year old man on a mission to create and plant 1,00,000 Neem saplings by the end of 2018. You might say what’s so great about it? People are planting trees everywhere, but if you come to think of it – 1,00,000 saplings in a year is no mean feat!
During my interaction with him, I was blown away with the simplicity of his project. Here’s a small tete-a-tete with Mr. Ramesh Chandran, whose tryst with environment conservation began decades ago when he started organizing events for school kids to come forward and share their thoughts about environment conservation through essays and elocutions.
Sir, please tell us “why planting saplings” caught your fancy?
When I began to research on things we could do to save our environment, I realized that planting trees across our cities’ landscapes is the simplest task with the maximum positive impact. Planting of trees, increasing greens has obvious benefits which have been highlighted on numerous occasions. People across the various socio-economic strata of our society are aware of these benefits too, but no one is really sure of how to get these saplings and plant them across the city.
So I began to do the same and also help children raise saplings and give them the opportunity and space to plant them across the city.
Initially I tried nurturing various plants and eventually figured that neem seeds are easiest to procure and when processed and sown, 90% of the seeds sprout into saplings.
Furthermore, Neem trees are one of the most long lasting trees. On an average every neem tree lives for over 50-60 years. Each and every part of a neem tree can be used for medicinal gain. It is also considered an oxygen-bomb which is perfect for the environment.
Please tell us the details of the process that you follow.
I gather the Neem fruits that fall off the trees every day. I also receive neem fruits from people who know that I gather neem fruits for processing them into saplings. In the last week alone, I have washed and dried almost 1000 neem fruits and extracted their seeds. The beauty about neem seeds is that they don’t die very quickly. So now when I sow the seeds into a sand bed in large tubs in my terrace and porch, I can hope that 90% of the seeds will sprout into saplings.
That’s it! Is that so simple?
Yes! Exactly! It is that simple. But that’s not all that I do. My mission is to spread this awareness to as many children as I can and teach them to create Neem saplings. I want to include children because when you teach a child about planting and creating a tree, the idea gets easily imbibed in the young minds. Their enthusiasm is infectious and the results in terms of continuity of efforts are sustainable for a longer duration.
I am working with at least 5 educational institutions to educate their students about the process of creating Neem saplings. Once they have the saplings, with assistance from parents they plant them at appropriate places or they bring those saplings back to school from where they are sent across to me. I then make sure that the saplings are further nurtured and are planted in a permanent space.
Where all do you plant these saplings?
Most of the times, the educational institutions plant the saplings within their premises. Otherwise we plant trees in various public places such as public parks, roadsides, empty spaces meant for planting trees along the railway lines etc. The possibilities keep showing up as and when we are ready with a batch of saplings.
What are the challenges that you face?
The biggest challenge is that of awareness. Once the awareness is there, people who wish to create saplings, make that effort. And if not, they simply gather neem fruits and send them to me. I nurture the seeds from there on.
The second biggest challenge is of understanding. People fail to understand the benefits of planting neem trees. I visit and interact with people from various residential complexes, where there is enough space to plant neem trees, it is saddening to get replies from them that raise concern over the beautification issues of their landscape. I often get disheartened on being turned down, but tell them smilingly that, “I am into purification, not beautification”
A final message
In the last one week I have been able to gather 5000 seeds. Once the schools reopen after the summer vacations, I should have a lot more Neem fruits from our students who are with me on this effort!
The way I see it, if there are 20 mad environment lovers like me – a lakh is easily achievable. And 200 mad men make it 10 lakh and 20,000 mad men make it a crore.
Sadly most would we be interested in this mathematics only if a financial advisor explains the possibility and benefits in terms of Money!
I do realize I may not reach a lakh but 10-15 thousand by the end of this year I will achieve and that should be a start!
Mr. Ramesh Chandran is an environment enthusiast. You can read more about his work and initiatives at his Facebook page – Vinisha’s for Kolkata.
I have a neem tree in my porch and am surely going to gather the fruits and process them into saplings. It is a simple process! The thing about this initiative is that it doesn’t have to be big, even a small step takes you closer to the destination. Even a couple of neem trees added to the world is going to count. Initiatives like the one by Mr. Ramesh Chandran are definitely going to go a long way in helping bring sustainability to the environment. With him, I pledge plantations of Neem Trees `this World Environment Day. What is your pledge?
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