Citizens create South Bombay’s first Miyawaki forest
The project comes at a time when citizens are fighting to save over 2,600 trees at Aarey Milk Colony.
Environmentally conscious citizens, with help from the civic body, have developed south Mumbai’s first Miyawaki forest, by planting 5,000 saplings at the Colaba Woods Park in Cuffe Parade.
In all, 33 species of native plants, including neem, baheda, karanj, banyan, kadam, and sapindus, and fruit trees such as mango, jackfruit, tamarind, custard apple, and cherry, were planted at this soon-to-be dense urban forest patch.
The project comes at a time when citizens are fighting to save over 2,600 trees at Aarey Milk Colony. Between January and August this year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) tree authority has sanctioned the felling of a total of 12,449 trees, equivalent to an average loss of 52 trees per day.
With over 500 citizens stepping out to plant the saplings, work on the Miyawaki forest project began last Saturday, with 1,200 saplings planted over the weekend and 3,800 more planted by Thursday. The plantation site is located towards the northern end of the park, spread across a 15,000 sqft area.
The Miyawaki method – developed by Japanese botanist and plant ecology expert, Dr Akira Miyawaki – allows forests to have improved carbon-dioxide absorption; better noise and dust reduction, and greener surface area as compared to monoculture (traditional) plantations. For traditional plantation techniques, one sapling is planted at an average distance of 150 sqft from each other. The Miyawaki technique can support 45 saplings within 150 sqft area.
The project was planned jointly by Annuja Sanghvi, from environment group Forest Creators, and BMC A ward corporator Harshita Narwekar, in March 2018. Forest Creators has planted over 6.5 lakh saplings over five years, across nine states in India, with a survival rate of over 95%.
“While carrying out these plantations, I realised that my home Mumbai is falling short of green spaces and urban forests,” said Sanghvi. “It was my duty as a Mumbaiite, to bring citizens together and revive the city’s environment.”
With Narwekar’s help, the duo managed to get permission for the project from the BMC garden department in May 2018. The project was funded in major part by the Rotary Club of Bombay Seaface and Gaia Conservation Foundation. Dr. RK Nair from Forest Creators oversaw the specifications for the plantations.
“Within a year the scale of awareness about Miyawaki plantations has increased drastically among citizens, leading to the massive turnout over the past week,” said Narwekar. “This was our pilot project. Now we hope to expand this within Colaba Woods, and later other parts of south Mumbai.”
This is currently the city’s largest Miyawaki plantation, after citizens group, Green Yatra planted 3,000 saplings of indigenous tree species between January and February, across 10,000 sqft area at the Central Railside Warehouse Company Ltd premises in Jogeshwari (East).
Now, the BMC also plans to build over 100 urban forests in the city, using the Miyawaki methodology. They have acquired 61 plots and have already planted over 4,500 indigenous saplings.
“The Miyawaki method is opening up a new dimension of developing urban green cover and the concept is spreading at a fast pace across metropolitan cities. Only native trees should be planted, and maintenance is essential, considering the compact plantation technique,” said Dr Pankaj Srivastava, director, Indian Institute of Forest Management under the Union environment ministry.
A 2017 report by Praja Foundation revealed that the ratio of trees per citizen was as low as 0.28, or less than half a tree per person in Mumbai. “As per the World Health Organization, we require five trees per healthy human being. In Mumbai, the ratio is reversed,” said Sanghvi.