Having created a green thicket over a 3,000 sq ft of land and taken up the feeding of birds and pets during summer, the Rotaractors of RID 3000 are now being called “green warriors,” says DRR Lokesh Kumar. “We realised that the city’s green cover is disappearing at an alarming rate as 100-year-old trees are being felled in seconds. We wanted to find a solution to this ecological mess in Madurai.”
After a lot of research and mentoring from DG R V N Kannan, Rotary Club of Madurai Nextgen President E R K Vignesh Babu and his team, including its Secretary A Ganesh and DRCC K Vikranth, had a number of brainstorming sessions on the efforts they need to take to save the forests that are being depleted. They came to know about Dr Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist and a specialist in the restoration of natural vegetation on degraded land. He had found that the tabunoki trees had protected Japan’s coastline during the 2011 tsunami (whereas the large tracts of pine forests, a non-indigenous species, had failed). This led to the Green Tide Embankment spearheaded by the botanist creating a forest with 40 million trees that will grow in 20 years.
The Miyawaki method of afforestation involves planting different types of native trees close together in a small pit. Since the Rotaractors did not know much about the native trees, they created a register on local species with their special features. Rtr K Sakthivel who worked on the species parameter says, “we had to plan and plant saplings of trees that grow up to 50 feet, beside those that grow only up to 20 feet. Smaller fruit-bearing trees like pomegranate and guava that need more nourishment were planted beside neem, jamun and kadamba that take time to grow and need little care.”
This method will help the shorter fruit-bearing trees to grow under the shade of towering trees. District Rotaract Secretary Siva Sankaran, who worked on the soil suitability, says “it was a hectic task, and yet a fun-filled experience as we learnt something new that we can replicate in smaller spaces like our own fields and backyards to create our own green canopy.” Based on the Miyawaki method, a series of huge pits were dug and filled with biodegradable substances like wood, coconut husk and palms to a depth of one foot. Red soil was piled above the layer, watered and left to set for three days. The layers above this were filled with vegetable waste, fallen leaves and cow dung.
With the help of Interactors, over 300 saplings were planted in 3,000 sq ft of land at the Sundaram Park in Madurai, at a cost of ₹1.1 lakh.
With the help of Interactors, over 300 saplings were planted in 3,000 sq ft of land at Sundaram Park, Madurai, at a cost of ₹1.1 lakh. Once in two weeks, Rotaractors take up maintenance work at this land. “Every Rotaractor gets a chance to do groundwork. This project has become a huge success that whenever there is a photo shoot or we are facing a camera, we say ‘TREES’ to invoke a smile in us,” says DRR Kumar.
Rotaractors are also providing food and water to birds, animals on their terrace, balconies and in the backyards of their homes this summer. And they take to social media to spread the message Thaagam Theerpoma (Let’s quench thirst), a project that has engaged over 40 clubs in the district with all Rotaractors chipping in their bit to reach out to the winged creatures.