How 15 citizens are building about 8000 sq m of forests in Bengaluru

Last year, 15 residents near Manyata tech park collaborated with the NGO SayTrees, to build mini forests. The fast-growing forests are now major lung spaces in the traffic-choked area.

If you’re somewhere around Manyata tech park, you may hear the chirping of birds amidst all the honking and din of heavy vehicles. Adjacent to the tech park, a small internal road will take you to five mini forests, spread across 7850 sq m. All of these have been created by the residents of Manyata Residency nearby.

These parks are the only lung spaces in the otherwise traffic-choked, congested area that houses many high-rise apartments and commercial establishments.

How it all started

As we face the ill-effects of global warming, we need to stop cutting down trees and plant more to make our city liveable for future generations. With this mission, 15 of us green enthusiasts from Manyata Residency – mostly women – formed a collective named ‘MR VrikshaMitra’ in 2018.

In November 2018, we wrote to Kapil Sharma, CEO of SayTrees, an NGO that works on afforestation – particularly the Miyawaki afforestation method – across India. Using Miyawaki method, thick natural forests can be grown in small urban spaces in just a few years. SayTrees then conducted site visits, and also worked with us to identify treated water sources to grow the forests.

SayTrees took full responsibility for approaching corporates for CSR funds and for managing the funds. Dell India Pvt Ltd, Netapp, Novo Nordisk, Samsung R&D, KPMG, Ness technologies, Mizuho bank, Groupon, Thorogood, Teleflex, Version X, The Math company, Citrix, Walk Waters and Ather were the companies that offered funding for our project. Some residents contributed or sponsored saplings as well.

Before the monsoon of 2019, we started the plantations, adopting a combination of Miyawaki afforestation and traditional planting techniques. Many CSR volunteers helped plant the saplings too.

About 15,000 trees planted in a few months!

In five of the parks, over 12,650 trees were planted using the Miyawaki method. And now, in just eight months, these are turning into mini urban forests. However, it would take 2-3 years for the forests to become self-sustaining. The trees are 12-15 feet tall now, and are expected to grow upto 30-35 ft in five years.

These mini forests were designed such that traditional indigenous trees are at the borders or in smaller patches like triangular corners; and the inner area is made of Miyawaki plantations. As per the Miyawaki method, only native species have been used.

A map showing all the parks within Manyata Residency.
A map showing all the parks within Manyata Residency.

Currently there are walkways between the mini forests, but the pathways inside the plantations are used only for watering. This is because human intervention needs to be minimised until the forest becomes self-sustaining. Once the forests become mature, the pathways will be maintained for people to walk through.

In addition to the five parks where Miyawaki afforestation was done, traditional plantation was done in three other parks. Around 2,340 trees were planted there, taking the total number of trees planted to around 15,000!

Here are details of the plantation, including names of the tree species we selected.

Few members of MR VrikshaMitra group and volunteers from Say Trees who took the initiative to develop the parks into Miyawaki forests gathered at park no. 19 after 8 months. Pic: Manyata Residency VrikshaMitra Group
Some members of MR VrikshaMitra group. In the background is one of the growing mini forests. Pic: MR VrikshaMitra

The parks are now a hub for birds and birdwatchers

A variety of birds are spotted in these parks, particularly in Park No. 10, known popularly as ‘The Bird Park’ now. The parks serve as natural habitat for birds; fruit-bearing trees like jamun and mango are a source of food for them. The birds, some of which come from the neighbouring Hebbal Lake, have been documented by birdwatchers too.

Here are some photographs of birds observed in Manyata Residency parks by Dr Anil Menon, a paediatric cardiologist and ardent birdwatcher.

How were the Miyawaki forests created?

In the Miyawaki method, soil is tested, then excavated and put back after adding compost and nutrients. Saplings are then densely planted, mulched and watered for 2-3 years until they become self-sufficient. The falling leaves become natural mulch for the trees. According Kapil Sharma, CEO of Say Trees,

“Miyawaki method is the solution to grow and bring back lost green cover in the city and across the globe. These parks have proven to be places for birds to build nests and feed on the fruits. Bird droppings, in turn, will give rise to new saplings and thus the cycle continues. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the tech park and the population in the neighbourhood, these parks are acting as a carbon sink and lung space to absorb the pollution caused by noise and smoke.”

Parks have made the area cooler

Residents here have observed a consistent rise in temperature year-after-year due to increasing construction of high-rise buildings for both residential and commercial purposes. But now, our trees work as natural thermoregulators. Areas covered by the trees show 2-3 degree lower temperated than the surroundings, as per measurements done by SayTrees.

Planting of trees has also cut down water usage for lawn maintenance in the parks, by preventing quick evaporation of water. These forests also have benefits at a larger level, in terms of reducing greenhouse emissions and pollution, and rejuvenating the water table. We are also planning rainwater harvesting units in the parks.

There are challenges too

Air pollution caused by heavy traffic as well as the burning of wood in informal labour settlements nearby, has far-fetching implications on the parks’ bird and insect population. Noise pollution is also a problem.

Another major concern is a Nandini milk booth-cum-cafe that has been set up along the border of one of the parks. (The parks were maintained by the developer until recently, and are in the process of being handed over to the BBMP now.) There’s a thriving ecosystem around mini forests, both above and beneath the soil. Any new structure in the park threatens the natural habitat of the species thriving there.

There is also heavy movement of people, noise and parked vehicles around the Nandini outlet. The plastic straws and cups dumped around the outlet will eventually get mulched as well, choking the soil and microorganisms.

Cooperation of local authorities essential

There is also a proposal to set up a new outlet along another park at the back gate of Manyata Residency. Our Residents’ Welfare Association has already written to authorities to stop this allotment and also to remove the existing outlet in Park 14.

According to Kapil Sharma, it is “strongly recommended that the parks be left alone and not tampered with, to turn them into eco-friendly spaces for birds, bees and butterflies… The saplings are densely-planted, and in about five years these will look like natural forests that are aged about a hundred years. There is no concept of relocating in Miyawaki forests as any portion cut off will disturb the eco-network created.”

A milk parlour cum cafe that has taken up space inside park no. 14 housing a miyawaki forest. Pic: MR VrikshaMitra Group
Plastic waste from the Nandini outlet could damage the forests. Pic: MR VrikshaMitra Group

We are also following up with authorities to get the parks fenced, so as to save the plantations from cattle and also from troublemakers who uproot plants or remove the sticks that support saplings. Miscreants have also been caught stealing baby parakeets and owlets from their nests.

Government agencies could also set up dry leaf collection bins so that the leaves falling from traditional plantations can be composted and turned into manure.We also need their support for maintenance and supplying treated water to the traditional plantations.

Second-generation saplings need to be planted for many of the older fruit trees in the park, some of which are aged 60, 70 years. If BBMP conducts a tree census, we’d have information on the age, health and longevity of these trees, which would then help us plan the planting of saplings. Previous attempts to grow saplings have been unsuccessful.

Bengaluru will be liveable only if we grow and nurture more trees. Hence these parks should be left undisturbed, and allowed to grow into sprawling forests as they are designed to be.

[Bhanumathi, Harita, Gopika, Viswadharini Kumar of MR VrikshaMitra group also contributed to this article.]

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Comments:

  1. Sindhu ms says:

    Excellent work done ??

    • Jagan says:

      Manyata tech park was awesome before 4 years but if u see the development and construction had changed to one of worst park now there was plenty of coconut trees and native breed slow ly they cut all of them, I hope they will increase tree cover.

  2. Malay says:

    I speechless.. Instead of blaming govt.they just created what is good for us… for Mother Nature…. It should be in every city and village also…

  3. Mahesh Shandilya says:

    I am interested in growing a miyazaki forest. Can your NGO assist.

  4. Mahesh Shandilya says:

    Miyawaki

  5. MN Rao says:

    Great work.
    Kindly inform contact details of “Say trees“. I have grown many trees around my place in 20 years but yet have more space for afforestation. Would like to get in touch with Say Trees. Regards.

    • Mahalingam M says:

      I stay in Newtown, Yelahanka and very easy to find out my residence. If you search for a house which looks like a forest that is my house. I have two coconut trees, two mango trees, one jackfruit tree, two guava trees, arecanut tree and many other fruit bearing and flower bearing plants. Every leaf is being utilised to convert into vermifertilizer. No chemicals are used and cent percent organic.

  6. Preethi Palandikar says:

    Great job ?

    • Ramdev says:

      The entire Manyata park was a huge lake 15 years back now there is no clue of a lake I spent my child hood in Nagawara there used to be greenery all around guava plantation paddy fields and Rose orchids are now replaced by Tech park and PG’s. Poor people’s building are demolished near lake or buffer zones but what about Tech park’s?

  7. Saikat Mukherjee says:

    Congratulations first of all for the great effort !

    We ( me & my wife) wish to contribute to this noble effort and also take up
    Similar one in our neiboury. Kindly suggest how to start.

  8. Anthony Aruldass says:

    Truly amazing, this is what we need Of hour

  9. Narasimha Rao says:

    Great work done by these people and it’s a great inspiration for all of us let start some thing from our end also.

  10. Shankar says:

    Awesome! kudos to all

  11. Mahalingam M says:

    Plz go for local traditional plants which need less water and care. Try to plant in between some wild fruit bearing trees so that birds are attracted and by hearing their voices you get lot of relief and enjoyment. Go for neem trees, peepal trees and up course honge plants also. But prepare and plan in advance to utilise every leaf for converting into bio fertiliser. Burning the waste will lead to environmental hazard.

  12. RSubrahmanyam says:

    Excellent work, should inspire many. I have a plan to do iny area.

  13. Vasanthkumar Mysoremath says:

    Excellent, highly replicable by other hi-rise residential plots. I have been suggesting to Government of Karnataka to cancel the lease given to Bangalore Turf Club (BTC)-Race Course, patronised by a few thousands occasionally and convert part of the 99+ acres of land into a natural forest in CBD, a la Miyawaki. But every Government that comes to power blow hot and cold and ultimately renews the lease, albeit for short periods. Fresh air is what Bengalureans are longing for many are getting affected with allergic bronchitis and other ailments. It will be a win win situation if this greenfield project is implemented as a valuable carbon sink in the highly polluted CBD. Out of 99 acres, 9 acres towards Mahatma Gandhi bust in Gandhinagar may be used for providing multi-level underground parking space and the terrace may be used for creating a rock garden and/or art center. It will not be out of place if it is mentioned that the entire BTC area spews carbon and hot air around. In the rest of the area, about 85 per cent of land may be reserved as an organic self-sustaining forest and rest with the BTC office/spectators stand towards West-End hotel may be used for educating/IEC environmental awareness activities for school children and with housing space for staff appointed to look after the wooded area. In addition, some space may be set apart for solid waste management of wet waste collected from residences/hotels around Gandhinagar and the manure may be used for getting better growth of local green species. This will also ease the SWM activity on BBMP (dumping). We need to bring pressure on Government to develop the guts to implement this multi-purpose project; Government has already allotted alternate land to BTC but due to high level patronage of BTC from within the Government (give us some membership of BTC-? will renew lease !) , it keeps being a malleable tool. Post your ‘anisike’.

  14. C V PROMOD says:

    Good morning appreciate the initiative let the initiative spread to other areas of our BANGALORE and put efforts to make BANGALORE as a Garden City.

    • Ranjini Ganesh says:

      This is a very Good Good initiative. I would also like to join ur team. Please kindly help us do this at Cambridge road, Halasur. This is a very congested area, we need ur support.

  15. J Raj says:

    Excellent teamwork in making a miniforest. It is a model- and inspiring task. Beware of thieves and miscreants. Let God continue to give strength to sustain this Lung Space..

  16. Amith says:

    Can this be replicated in Bangalore University or Thurahalli forest?

  17. Malini rao says:

    The defence dept has extensive empty lands that can be used for planting trees. Why not take up afforestation on these lands?

  18. Omkar Nandi says:

    Commendable work by the team.. I often take a stroll in one of these parks and it’s pure fresh air and green cover is simply rejuvenating.. Let me know if I can volunteer to help in my free time

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