Plantation of local tree species in approximately 110 hectares of land at the periphery of Balukhanda wildlife sanctuary, Puri, Odisha, India (area severely affected by Fani cyclone).
Disaster Mitigation, Groundwater Recharge, Increase in Green Cover, Conservation of Water Table, Improvement of Wildlife Habits
Cyclone Fani, with a wind speed of about 175 kilometres per hour, was the second-most powerful cyclone to have hit Odisha in early May 2019. Total damage in Odisha was estimated at Rs. 12,000 crores (US$1.74 billion), mostly in property damage and the relief. According to an article published in India Today, “More than 10 million trees were uprooted with an equal number of trees damaged in the extremely severe cyclone". The figure may rise as forest officials are yet to receive the complete report on the damage to the forest cover in Puri. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Sandip Tripathy told The Express that around 50 per cent trees have been uprooted while the crown of the remaining half damaged in Balukhanda sanctuary. The sanctuary was home to around 90 lakh trees. "The damage to green cover is so massive that it will take at least a decade for its revival. We will recommend the State Government to launch a special project for Balukhand for the restoration of the damaged forest," the PCCF said. "Now, our main task will be to ensure re-plantation of the uprooted trees to revive the green cover," said Tripathy.”
In an interview with the Grow-Trees team, Mr. Harshabardhan Udgata, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Puri said, "The plantation, forests, everything has been damaged severely at the Balukhanda Wildlife Sanctuary, its peripheral areas, and other adjoining areas of the Puri town due to Cyclone Fani. We need rapid restoration of the vegetation and help from everyone. This is a site which is very important for the Puri town, because it is called the ‘Sweet Water Zone’. Entire drinking water is tapped from the groundwater available here and supplied to the town. 4 years prior to Fani, the Forest Department had planted casuarina and acacia, but now everything is damaged. Although their leaves are coming up, the tops are broken, because of which it can not grow up and act as the canopy. So, an initiative by Grow-Trees, to plant 250,000 saplings in the gap areas will create the top canopy on maturity and all these broken plants will act as the middle canopy. There will be 2 strata of canopies which will break the speed of the rainwater and ultimately prevent soil erosion."
Even though around 4,000 deer were found safe in the Balukhanda Wildlife Sanctuary, their habitat has been completely destroyed. In order to bring back the harmony in the city and assure protection of wildlife, it is imperative to take immediate actions and initiate re-plantation of the loss at the earliest.
The project involves plantation of three specific species of trees, namely Casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia), Karanj (Millettia pinnata) and Earleaf Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis), having the characteristics of resisting the wind.
Flora and Fauna
The state of Odisha houses very rare species of flora comprising of orchids and mangroves. The forests are populated with Teak and Bamboo trees along with some species bearing medicinal values (for eg., Karanj) and Kendu plants. These forests are mainly classified into tropical dry deciduous forests and tropical moist deciduous forests. The Balukhanda and Chandaka reserves are the most famous forest reserves.
The forests of Odisha also nurture a wide and rare variety of fauna from the Royal Bengal Tigers to the giant Asiatic elephants. The state is home to eighteen wildlife sanctuaries, three national parks and three wildlife reserves. The forests serve as an abode for Leopards, Lion Tailed Macaque, Barking Deer, Giant Squirrel, Indian Pangolin, Mouse Deer, Chowsinghas, Flying Cat, Sloth Bear, Sambar and Wild Dogs. It is also the habitation for reptiles such as Cobra, Python, Gharial, etc.
On average, a tree offsets 20 kg of carbon and produces 118 kg of oxygen every year upon maturity. The trees reverse the effect of adverse climatic conditions and natural phenomena, thus, protecting the community at risk. The project will aid in the restoration of vegetation that was lost due to Cyclone Fani. It will help in groundwater recharge, improving wildlife habitat and reducing soil erosion. One of the tree species, Karanj, which is also a medicinal plant, will not only produce organic litter by leaf shedding but will also act as a source of pollen and nectar for the production of dark honey. It is increasingly used for oil production due to its use in biodiesel. Furthermore, the project will generate 20,000+ workdays of employment for the rural communities.
Project Purpose: Trees for the Himalayas
The project involves plantation of 30,000 local trees in the temperate habitat of Zuluk area at the fringes of Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim.
Zuluk, which is situated in the Eastern part of Sikkim is one of the most beautiful and scenic destinations in the region. It attracts tourists from across the world and is known for its prolific home-stays. The Sikkim Human Development Report 2014 recognised tourism as one of the potential sectors for growth and livelihood creation. The tourism sector has emerged as the vital industry of Sikkim, in recent decades, providing direct employment to more than 40,000 people. Owing to its popularity among tourists and the involvement of local communities in the sector, the Government also plans to encourage ecotourism and add new destinations, which also include the old silk route that passes between East Sikkim and Tibet. Plantation of trees with the help of Zuluk based Self Help Group, at the fringe of Sanctuary, will help in the ecological and wildlife restoration, and in improving the quality of life of local communities, making them more self-sustained.India has two out of the eighteen biodiversity hot-spots in the world located in the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas. As per the Sikkim ENVIS Report, Sikkim covers only 0.2% geographical area of the country landmass, but has tremendous biodiversity and has been identified as one of the hot-spot in the Eastern Himalayas. The presence of high altitude lakes not only attracts tourists but also acts as a biodiversity hot-spot for migratory birds. However, the Himalayas are continuously under global pressure of climate change, which is adversely impacting its fragile ecosystems, rich biodiversity and sensitive local livelihoods. Forests and climate change are intimately intertwined. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the forests capture atmospheric carbon dioxide at a rate equivalent to about one-third the amount released annually by burning fossil fuels. Stopping deforestation and regenerating forests, therefore, could provide up to 30 per cent of the climate solution.
The project involves plantation of several valuable native tree species including Abies, Acer, Rhododendron, and Viburnum.
Flora and Fauna
The selected area of Zuluk is defined with temperate vegetation, pre-dominant flora includes Guras (Rhododendron sp.), Kapasi (Acer cambelli), Asarey (Viburnum cordifolium), Gobre Salla (Abies densa) and Juniper (Juniperus indica).
Recorded faunal species from the region include the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Common Leopard (Panthera pardus), Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Himalayan Palm Civet (Paguma iarvata), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjac).
The tree plantation helps in promoting sustainable eco-tourism and wildlife tourism by improving the overall ecological health and enhancing wildlife habitat in a particular area. The plantation project of 10,000 trees in Zuluk area is expected to create around 1200 workdays among the locals - including women self-help groups. Locals are the ones that know their forests the best and that’s why they are made to get involved in plantation activities starting from the digging process to the maturity of trees. Through trees, the local communities will be able to attain sustainable income sources in the form of timber-based produce and non-timber based produce. In terms of carbon offsetting, 10,000 trees are going to offset approximately 200,000 kgs of carbon dioxide annually, upon maturity. Additional canopy cover improves habitat for indigenous wildlife including the endangered and endemic, the state animal Red panda along with other associated wild animals.
Several studies have also shown that the planting of trees ensures that the rain droplets sink into the soil rather than flowing above ground, thus, increasing the groundwater table through water recharge. These trees will also help in conserving the local flora and fauna by providing them with adequate food and natural habitat sources.
Plantation of local tree species on the Panchayat-owned lands near the water embankments of Surav village, Raigad district, Maharashtra, India.
Disaster Mitigation, Recharge Groundwater, Increase in Green Cover, Generation of Rural Employment, Control Soil Erosion.
Situated amidst various water bodies, Raigad district is still prone to seasonal water scarcity and water-borne diseases. According to a report by the Ministry of Water Resources and the Central Ground Water Board, there is a rapid decline in water level during the post-monsoon period, whereas the area goes practically dry during peak summers. The physiography and geology of an area play a major role in the groundwater resource availability and sustainability, which in Raigad district lack behind and indicate the need for further development.
As per Census 2011, around 11.6% of the total population of Mangaon Taluka lives in urban areas while 88.4% lives in rural areas. An article published by India Fellow - An Introduction To Katkari Tribes Of Maharashtra, mentions that “The Katkaris are one of the most marginalized communities of India, being designated as ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’ within the Scheduled Tribes. Spread in pockets in Gujarat and Maharashtra, a substantial population is spread across all of Raigad district. With a lot of empowerment and rights-based interventions based around the Forest Rights Act, 2006, they have been given some patches of land by the authorities.” Discussing about their living conditions, the article also highlights that, “Post the agricultural season, commencing right after Diwali, able-bodied Katkaris would migrate to work as daily wage labourers in brick kilns or construction sites, only to return at Holi (March). Education is another challenge and migration is one of the main reasons for the same. Every year when the tribal families migrate, the education of their children gets affected as they drop out. They grow up uneducated and end up with the same vocations as their forefathers and this has turned into a vicious cycle over the years.”
The district has limited forest cover, with salt pans developed in certain regions along the coast. A salt pan forms in climates where the rate of water evaporation exceeds the rate of precipitation. They can be dangerous and have the capability to conceal a quagmire of mud that can engulf a truck.
Explaining the phenomenon of how vegetation allows the water to be retained, Dr. Ramachandra says: “Recharging groundwater requires 30-40 percent of open space with vegetation. The vegetation makes soil pervious and helps in percolation.” Furthermore, research led by Associate Professor Ulrik Ilstedt from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) finds that “moderate tree cover can increase groundwater recharge, and that tree planting and various tree management options can improve groundwater resources. Forests have often been described as ‘sponges’ storing rainwater and slowly releasing it to maintain groundwater and streams during dry periods.” Groundwater flow is one of the mechanisms through which trees keep rivers flowing even during the dry season. In 2011, almost 30% of India’s districts had a groundwater situation that was either semi-critical, critical or overexploited. Studies suggest that if reforesting is done in 20-35% of the river’s catchment, a 10-15% reduction can be seen in flood peak heights after 25 years of forest growth.
The tree species planted here include the Karanj (Millettia pinnata), Cashew (Anacardium occidentale), Sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo), Earleaf Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis), Jamun (Syzygium cumini), Custard apple (Annona squamosa) and Lemon (Citrus limon).
Flora and Fauna
The vibrant flora of this district includes species such as Mango (Mangifera indica), Chandan (Santalum album), Khair (Acacia catechu), Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) and Teak tree (Tectona grandis) among various others.
Due to the coastline of about 240 kms, Raigad is one of the most important maritime districts of Maharashtra state. A large number of species of fish are found in the Arabian Sea and creeks such as Silver Pomfret (Stromateus argenteus), Sea Bass (Lates calcorifer), Gold Spotted Anchovy (Coilia dussumieri), Mackrel (Rastrelliger Kanagurta), Bombay Duck (Harpadon nehereus), etc. Raigad was also home to the tiger (Panthera tigris), Wild cat (Felies chaus) and Bear (Ursidae carnivora) only a few years ago. These can hardly be spotted these days.
On average, a tree offsets 20 kg of carbon and produces 118 kg of oxygen every year upon maturity. The trees reverse the effect of adverse climatic conditions and natural phenomena, thus protecting the community at risk. In addition to augmenting water catchment, reducing soil erosion, recharging groundwater, providing flowers, fruits, fodder and fuel, improving wildlife habitats, generating oxygen, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and fighting climate change, this project will create approximately 2,455 workdays in the nursery and planting activities alone. By planting these trees, the organization will contribute to protecting soil erosion/Riverbank erosion/Reduce siltation and hence, better-quality water to over 3 million people.