It had resolved to grow 1000 green islets last year and has now made 1,250 mini forests

The Haritha Keralam Mission made an ambitious announcement on Environment day last year—to grow 1,000 ‘Pachathuruthu’ (green islets) with the help of local bodies across the State.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mission has now managed to turn around as many as 1,250 plots of unused or peramboke land or surplus land with government departments into mini forests.

The plots range in size from a couple of cents to a few acres, like in Kannur and Palakkad. Although not every local body has come on board yet, there are a few others like the Karavaram gramapanchayat in the capital that has managed to grow 46 of these green islets.

According to T.N. Seema, Executive Vice-Chairperson of the Haritha Keralam Mission, the plants and trees are chosen based on the topography of the land, and with an aim for biodiversity conservation.

“Each local body was asked to find suitable land for planting a ‘pachathuruthu’ in their panchayat or municipality. The government also told us that we can use the unused land with the various government departments with their permission. School campuses have also been used. We also revived many neglected Kaavus (sacred groves). The saplings were made available free of cost by the Forest Department. Workers of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) were used for land preparation and planting,” says Ms. Seema.

The plants or trees suitable for each area as well as local varieties that had disappeared over the years were identified with the help of experts and planted. In some areas where mangrove forests were found to be more suitable, the ‘pachathuruthu’ took that form. Exotic and invasive species like acacia and eucalyptus were completely avoided. Trees ranging from Indian tulip, Mango tree, Wild jack (anjily), Black plum (Njaval), Neermaruth, Tamarind, Indian Hog Plum, Mahagony, Neem to medicinal plants like Malabar Nut (Adalodakam) and Amla were planted in various plots. Private lands were also used in some places after the owners expressed their willingness.

One of the major issues with the usual sapling distribution initiatives was addressed under the programme by putting in place a mechanism for constant monitoring. A local committee has been formed to ensure the upkeep of each of the mini forests, with people’s representatives, local residents, and youth club members being a part of it. The MGNREGS workers will also provide their services for three years, after which it is estimated that most plants can survive on their own.

The popular ‘Miyawaki’ method for micro forests in the middle of cities was avoided, as the deep digging required for the same was found to be expensive for the ‘Pachathuruth’ programme run on a shoestring budget.

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