LGOOO 1st anniversary plantation drive, Kanchipuram ,29th June 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
LGOOO 1st anniversary plantation drive, Kanchipuram ,29th June 2013

   This is the story of how a single man's aspirations can bring about a significant, welcome change in the life & lifestyle, attitude, the priorities of the locals at a small, hitherto unknown village near Kanchipuram. This is not about a single day's event but a slow, gradual, enriching evolution. This is an example of how good things can happen when people with noble intentions converge together.

       Ayyangarkulam near Kanchipuram, is a  bit different from other Indian villages-there aren't any farmers here. People here work on the famous 'Kanchipuram Silk Sarees'.Some of them venture into nearby towns to work in factories-Agriculture and hence greenery are stories of the forgotten, neglected past here. As expected, the village was giving way for residential plots and engineering colleges on its farmlands and lake beds. But, Mr Ulaganathan,JE din't want to give up so easily. His concern was the ever shrinking expanse of the vast lake behind the Sanjeevi Rayar temple. The lake, Ayyangar kulam, which gave its name to the city was slowly dying out. The feeder channels of the lake were slowly encroached upon and the lake bunds wore a deserted, haunted look, with thorns lying all around, making it an ideal place for anti-social elements. Mr Ulaganathan wanted to do something to increase regular human activity along the lake bunds, to restore worshiping at the temples on both ends of the lake. That’s when he happened to meet a determined group of friends from Facebook , who, unlike others preferred working on the field rather than their Facebook walls. They believe in the constructive use of social networking for establishing contacts. And eventually they roped in their old friends from Chennai Trekking Club who had worked with them on the restoration of a historically significant Chola architectural marvel at Senji. Together ,a plan was drawn to plant over 1000 saplings along the entire stretch of the lake bund. Other organizations like Pasumai Vidiyal were eventually added  to increase the reach.


CTC, having planted more than 1000 saplings in the previous year with a pretty good survival rate were pretty confident of handling this but didn’t want to risk planting 1000 saplings without proper safety measures. As a precaution, 50 saplings were planted on the lake bund and it was mutually agreed that depending on the survival rate of these saplings the rest of the 1000 saplings would be planted in phases. The locals responded well-made arrangements for a bore-well, pipe lines for watering the saplings and put out all possible efforts for protecting the saplings. Solar street lights were installed along the stretch to increase human activity. The saplings in turn grew up very well, getting ready to welcome their siblings.

And the 'Lets Grow our Own Oxygen' team of CTC were all set to celebrate their first year anniversary and kick start their 2nd year activities through this mega event. Fortunately, we had some very kind, helpful officers from forest department to hep us. Inspired by CTC's green activities of the past year, they agreed to provide saplings free of cost-a holistic plan to develop the lake-ecosystem of the area was drawn. A carefully selected mix of saplings-fruit bearing and nesting were picked up to invite more birds into the lake. Pasumai Vidiyal agreed to plant 'vetti-vaer' along the the entire lake bund to structurally enhance its strength.Also, with inspirations from Vedanthangal bird sanctuary,25 'naatu karuvela maram' saplings were planted in the watery areas of the lake to promote bird nesting. Hundreds of seeds were collected to be sown along the bund.

On the day of the plantation event, more than 100 green warriors from across the city, and some from even the neighboring state gathered at the spot. It was wonderful to see newly married couples and families coming to the event.DFO from Kanchipuram was gracious enough to accept the invitation and kickstart the event. The forest guards and the DFO gave a comprehensive demo on the 'how-to's of planting  a sapling and the volunteers were more than eager to start planting.

Teams were formed to enable the process go on seamlessly with minimum dependency:
1)The digging team would make the pits proper and suitable for the saplings. The pits were already dug out using a poclain and this team had to work on each pit, taking into consideration several factors including the height of the sapling.
2)The planting team would carefully remove the cover from the root ball, plant the sapling, cover up the pit and then proceed to the next pit. Care was to be exercised to ensure that saplings of the same variety don't get planted  in adjacent pits.

3)The mulching team would place coconut shells,palm shells and  sugarcane waste around the sapling-this would control the growth of weeds and allow moisture to get retained in the soil near the roots by controlling the quanta of incident sunlight.

4)The thorn cutting team would cut the thorn trees(kaatu karuvela maram) in & around the lake, serving a dual purpose. We needed the thorns for protecting the saplings from cattle and also, these thorn trees are well known for draining the water from all around, from beneath the soil and from the atmosphere, thus affecting all life forms around them.

5)The tree guard team would proceed with erecting tree guards out of the cut thorns-this was a very tedious and important task .

6)The cooking team would proceed to the nearby college to assist  the cook with preparations for our lunch. Also, buttermilk and fresh lemon juice were to be prepared for our volunteers on the field.
7) There was a separate team for tools and support-arranging the tools as and when required and providing water & refreshments to the volunteers.

8)Seed sowing team, which was dedicated to sow 300+ seeds around the lake, on the bunds.
9)A team dedicated to plant karuvela maram saplings inside the lake.
10)Photography team, to capture the moments of the event.

Also, some volunteers picked up the sapling covers and other plastics from the spot in 4 bio-degradable garbage bags.
The teams synced up perfectly and worked together- the volunteers were awesome in spirit and style. Unlike the previous visit, the heat was relatively less. And as always ,we worked, with lots of fun. Cycling, posing for pics and running for snacks-all happened but work was completed on time. Majority of the saplings were planted before lunch .The tired team proceeded to the temple for lunch and some well-deserved rest-and then, back to work again, this time, in the company of rain:) It was like an appreciation mail from a manager after a day's hard work ;)Our volunteers loved this and started dancing in the rain. By 5 pm, the rest of the saplings were planted and tree guards were installed for most of the saplings!!Hats of to all volunteers who worked throughout the day braving the sun & rain.

Now, back at the temple, after group photo sessions, accounts were settled and volunteers were sent back in cars, bikes and vans to their corresponding pickup points. Few of us stayed back to plant the remaining saplings. And again, owing to the climate, there were some tree guards yet to be fixed. We decided to camp at the temple for the night and get back to work early in the morning.


The next day ,it was a pleasant surprise for us. When we went there by around 7 AM in the morning, there were already few villagers standing there, looking at the saplings, picking thorns and making tree guards!!! This moment, of course, made up for all the troubles and hurdles that we had endured in the past-the previous night's mosquito bites were forgotten in a jiffy. From our experience, something which all of  us could agree upon is that creating awareness is tougher than growing trees and we realized, we had just achieved that!!!! We had sown that seed of environmental consciousness/pro-activeness in the minds of the villagers there and that’s what we value more than some petty numbers& stats-the journey is sometimes greater than the destination and we had just felt that!!
Thanks to all our wonderful volunteers who worked on throughout the day with minimal facilities-thanks to Peter for bringing in so many volunteers,for leading from the front and guiding us wherever required-needless to say,people came in as 'volunteers' and left as 'tree-lovers'.We are sure,all these tree lovers would now think twice before axing a tree :)

Some facts & future plans :
1)205 saplings have been planted on Saturday, the 29th of June 2013.There are a few remaining saplings, which the villagers have promised to plant. The total sapling count now stands at 255(including the saplings from the previous drive).
2)With continuous support and patronage from forest department, around 800-1000 saplings can be planted along the lake bund. A suitable mixture of fruits bearing trees/nesting trees will be selected , as always.
3)Some species planted by us - natttu karuvela maram, banyan, peepal, iluppai, iyalvagai, pungai, sorgam, neem, kumzh, magizham,naaval.
4)The only way to thank all our the green warriors(right from the forest department officer who patiently dispatched the saplings for us after attending his own retirement function - his last signature on duty was to provide saplings to us ,to all our volunteers) would be to achieve an excellent survival rate here. We would leave no stone unturned for this. Plans are on to fabricate our own tree guards at one of our volunteer's workshops-more follow up events would be organized for this spot!!!

We are looking forward for support from corporates / individuals to fund these tree guards- reach us at peter.vangeit@gmail.com if you are interested!!

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