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City’s first plant rescue team

entertainment Updated: Sep 27, 2010 13:31 IST
Sneha Mahale

In their spare time, these young professionals roam around the city. They scan walls and plumbing, looking for plants and trees that might be growing on them and need to be relocated. Meet Green Umbrella, Mumbai’s only plant rescue team, devoted to bailing out trees. Once rescued, the tree is transferred to a makeshift nursery where it is nurtured back to health and then planted again in an area where trees are needed.

“The idea of rescuing trees came to my mind on Vat Purnima (Hindu festival). On this day, married women tie threads to banyan trees, but there are no trees around,” says Vikram Yende, founder, Green Umbrella. Yende, who works in a bank and provides this service for free, came across a banyan tree growing on a building and thought of shifting it to a secure place. His friends joined him on this rescue mission and Green Umbrella was born. Today, the group has rescued more than 200 saplings.

Green Umbrella focuses on saving indigenous Indian trees like banyan, pimpal, vad and umber. “These trees suit the local environment and provide food and shelter to local fauna,” says Yende. They absorb the maximum amount of carbon dioxide and release more oxygen. They also absorb toxic gases to some extent and have a higher resistance to pollution. “Yet the BMC continues to plant foreign trees like gulmohar and other flowering species that cannot acclimatise to our environment. This is the main reason why so many trees fall during the monsoon,” he says.

At their nursery in Kalwa, the team nourishes rescued plants. They also grow various Indian species plants from their seeds and branches. The team has also been meeting officials from the government, forest department and BMC to emphasise the benefits of native species plants and to request them to take concrete steps to plant them in mass quantities. They are also working towards increasing the diversity of native plant species in places such as Wangani, Junner, Kankavali and Titwala and some areas of Mumbai and Thane.

Green Umbrella now plans to start awareness drives in schools and show children how to rescue a plant through practical demonstrations. They want to involve the common man in tree plantation and are thinking of starting a water conservation arrangement during tree plantation activities.

How it works:
To avail of their service, one just needs to call or email Green Umbrella with the exact location of the tree that needs to be rescued.

Once the team gets there, the plant is uprooted using hand tools with surgical precision, with minimum damage to its roots.

The roots are immediately soaked in a bucket containing solution of growth hormones that reduces the shock to the plant after they are uprooted.

If the tree is three to four feet long and the rainy season is on, the tree is planted immediately.

If not, it is shifted to the nursery where it can be nurtured till the next monsoon.