[Urbanstudy] How Tiruppur is now weaving a green cover for the district

Vinay Baindur yanivbin at gmail.com
Sun May 14 13:16:49 CDT 2017


How Tiruppur is now weaving a green cover for the district
Srinivasan <http://www.thehindu.com/profile/author/Pankaja-Srinivasan-74/>
MAY 13, 2017 16:05 IST
UPDATED: MAY 13, 2017 19:19 IST

Banyan, badam, teak, pomegranate, rosewood and neem are among the species
planted as part of the Vanathukul Tiruppur project.
How Tiruppur, India’s knitwear hub, is now weaving a green cover for the
entire district

We moved this tree 15 km on a truck along the stretch between Avinashi and
Avinashipalayam.” V. Mahendran points to a hulking tree trunk. “The
operation took us nine hours. Even with its branches and most of its canopy
chopped off, it weighed more than 40 tonnes.” We are at the Tiruppur
Collectorate, and Mahendran, who works at a leading Tiruppur apparel
company, is telling me about the massive tree planting drive across
Tiruppur district that he is part of.

“Four hundred trees were to be cut for a highways project. And 150 trees of
them were transplanted— three of them at the Collectorate.” This particular
tree, a rare variety of banyan, is around 150 years old. He points to a
sprig of leaves on a bare branch. “The tree lives.”

Mahendran comes from a long line of farmers in Dharapuram “and I know about
native trees and the soil.” Fourteen years ago, he joined the
administrative department of an apparel manufacturing and exporting
company. But when his managing director, T.R. Sivaram, spearheaded the
Vanathukul Tiruppur (Tiruppur within a forest) in 2015, a movement to green
the city, Mahendran’s job description changed. He became the initiative’s
project manager.

As we drive along, Mahendran identifies the trees that have been planted as
part of the project. He says with considerable pride that 3.5 lakh trees
have been planted in the last two years in the district and 90% are
flourishing. “Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than knowing that we
have put trees on almost every street of Tiruppur,” he says.

A.P.J. effect

Sivaram, who started an NGO called Vetry to tackle environmental problems
of the region, found the right people to fulfil a promise he made to
himself; one that gathered strength when his hero A.P.J. Abdul Kalam passed
away. “Dr. Kalam had said every human must plant and nurture at least five
trees in their lifetime.

When he died, a few of us thought the best way to honour his memory was to
plant and look after saplings. In 2015, 8,000 people from all walks of life
assembled and pledged to plant one lakh trees in four months.” That was the
first phase of Vanathukul Tiruppur. In just under 100 days, 1.35 lakh
saplings were planted.

That was the first milestone and the response was overwhelming. Sivaram
approached the frontrunners of business in the wealthy knitwear town of
Tiruppur. Almost all the garment industrialists threw their weight behind
his project. When I tell Sivaram that I always thought of Tiruppur as a
plastic-infected, hot and dusty mess, he is not very pleased.

“We are clothing the world and the city is one of the busiest industrial
hubs in the country raking in over ₹25,000 crore per annum in export
revenue and doing equally well in the domestic market. Over 11 lakh workers
are employed in the industries and, with that volume, the city is not going
to smell sweet.”

D.M. Kumar, CEO of another apparel company and project director of
Vanathukul Tiruppur, makes a candid admission.

“We have caused grievous harm to the environment and we must make amends.”
He says that while the industry’s growth has been exponential, no one paid
any attention to the environmental fallout. Water bodies paid the price
with effluents being discharged into them and trees suffered too.

But not any more.

The new ‘VIPs’

The trees in Tiruppur are now VIPs, says Sivaram. “We brainstormed and came
up with a sustainable plan. Too many tree planting drives are coming to
nought. In order to save time, energy and resources, we decided to plant in
enclosed private lands.” He explains how people offered vacant lands to
plant saplings. Nearly 4,000 acres have been planted. I see 6,000 trees
growing on 60 acres belonging to a major industrialist. Farmers with
uncultivable land were persuaded to plant teak, malai vembu and sandalwood.

Before the saplings find a home, Mahendran and his team find out what tree
will grow best in that particular soil. Treated sewage water is used to
water the saplings. Industrialists have provided tractors fitted with GPS
to the Vanathukul Tiruppur team. These follow a meticulously drawn up
schedule to crisscross the district carrying 6,000 litres of water a trip.
The tractors make five trips a day. In some farms, drip irrigation is used.

But it isn’t all smooth sailing. There have been some setbacks, reveals
Kumar. “When we planted saplings in public spaces, miscreants set fire to
them, poured acid on them or hammered nails into them. But plantations on
private lands get proper care and the trees get a fair chance of survival.”

Kumar says they would gladly help housing complexes to start greening
drives too. “You don’t need that much space. We have also adopted the
Miyawaki forestry method (a form of ecological engineering) and now several
places have densely planted trees.”

In the lush outdoors of yet another apparel exporting company, 4,000
assorted saplings grow in a Miyawaki forest. They include banyan, badam,
teak, pomegranate, rosewood, cherry, neem, silver oak, mandarai, guava and
mango. Children from nearby schools planted them and they return every now
and then to check on their progress.

Mahendran says the planting drive has helped bring back rare indigenous
species that would have otherwise disappeared. “The Vanathukul movement has
spread its roots. Dindigul, Erode, Namakkal have all begun similar
projects,” says Kumar.

Both Sivaram and Kumar reiterate that the greening effort has been
successful because it is a people’s movement, wholeheartedly supported by
the government. District Forest Officer A. Periasamy seconds that. “In the
first two years of the scheme, the forest department supplied nearly two
lakh saplings.

Meanwhile, the organisers themselves established nurseries and identified
sources for saplings. But the forest department will continue to offer
technical expertise in terms of saplings and soil conditions.”

Sivaram hopes to see positive results in about three years. “More rainfall,
more birds, less pollution and less heat.” And their next project on
restoring water bodies is already underway.
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