Sunday 12 July 2009

Gardening the biosphere back to life

Monsoon clouds setting above the valley en route to Wayanad

Day before yesterday some of us from The Blue Yonder (Arun, Sandra, Gopi) went to visit our friends at Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in Wayanad to update them on our recent initiatives and leveraging on our common interest. It was Suprabha Seshan who inspired us to launch the concept of 'One Metre Forest' in the villages where we come from. Similarly we came back smiling as she gave us another beautiful term to define the work Botanical Sanctuary is involved in : "Gardening the bio-sphere back into life". We don't think there is no other way to express what they do!! How beautiful...

Wednesday 8 July 2009

"Wishing trees" of Nila

sapling planted last year post monsoon.
7th July 2009, as part of eco-restoration initiative along Bharathapuzha (River Nila) in Kerala, we had an initiative where we invited friends, volunteers and our local community members to plant a tree. The event which is part of Traveller's Forest initiative we started last year, brought together people from various background and locations for the common cause. Musicians from Vayali, volunteers from Pravah, The Blue Yonder, Nila Foundation, Gandhiyan Prakrithi Chikilsalayam and Punarjeevani Trust celeberated the day planting about 120 indigenous saplings that constitute a typical sacred grove of Kerala. Another 100 saplings will be planted in the coming week and volunteers are also implementing what is known as "one metre forest".

The idea is to ensure that we don't just plant some saplings here and there, but replicate miniature sacred groves that were so plenty in our area even couple of decades back.

Dr M. S Swaminathan once said of Sacred Groves "Unlike, a botanical garden where a wide range of trees and plants are collected and cultivated for the purpose of education and enjoyment, the sacred groves are one method of expressing the gratitude of human families to the trees which sustain and support life under a given agro-ecological condition."

volunteers from Vayali on their way to traveller's forest
Arun our colleague at The Blue Yonder and Nila Foundation, who is leading the Nila Foundation's initiative on 'one-metre-forest', explained "We were inspired by the concept of One-metre-forest during a discussion at Gurukula Botanical Garden in Wayanad where Suprabha Seshan that we try to get friends plant 'forest' or let it grow naturally with no human intervention. Even at a time when the real-estate prices are sky-rocketing in places like Kerala, not many people wouldn't have hesitation to maintain a one metre forest in their plot if it's looked up on as an investment for clean drinking water for the future. Preaching about the impacts of global warming, or future war for water wouldn't stop people from leading the un-sustainable life style we all lead. However, if we can link this to a day to day reality, a reality where one ends up drinking the 'chlorine treated pipe water' instead of the clean water source from a well or a pond in villages, we are certain that people will become proactive to plant more trees."

Trustees of "punjarjeevani' who are implementing partners of The Blue Yonder and Nila Foundation
Of the 120 saplings we planted, many of them were special as we planted it on behalf of many people we knew. Listing some of them here.

** May I have a "I love my son" tree?
** Could you please plant a tree for our wedding date
** For my family
** One for the spirits of the past, present and future?)
** For a life that is full of adventures
** One for the decriminalisation of gay sex in India (which for me is a big step in a democracy),
** Another one for the strife in Iran (whatever, the outcome, it makes me happy to see that people come together to fight for their freedom. It gives me hope)
** A tree for a marriage I witnessed
** A tree just to celebrate life (and lots of thoughts and wishes).
** "THANK YOU for a good life" tree

"if its not too late, could I have one more tree for my Uncle Johnny? He loved them, would never even accept cut flowers until the end of his life - scolding people who "killed plants":) And he always wished to be remembered in this way, actually..."Plant a tree for me!" he used to smile.."And I'll be with you always.." Could you - please? "

Volunteers from Vayali and Pravah at the "traveller's forest"
While we planted for our friends around the world, we had few things to look at. We planted trees for /to
** our team at Vayali who won the Change Loom Awards last week,
** to celebrate the naming ceremony of one of our colleague's son,
** to make up for a bird that one of us killed when he was 7 years old ( yeah, now don't think this is like a carbon-offset program! ;)),
** a plant for our friends and families,
** for an uncle who died,
** for a friend who lost her son in an accident,
** for a colleague who completed an amazing book on rivers in Kerala,
** for our teachers and more than anything
** for a river that we destroyed,
** for a river that we have pledged to bring back life into it.
** for a river that brought many of us together to understand the meaning of life!

Why don't we all start planting trees to celebrate? Why gift useless presents for your friend's wedding, when giving a plant could bring cheer for many generations to come?

More pictures from the planting can be seen here

Friday 3 July 2009

Sunderbans featured in The Hindustan Times

Click on the above pictures to read the photo feature prepared by Madhu Reddy, who travelled as a volunteer to the Sunderbans as part of Responsible Tourism initiatives to document the disaster and the work being done there. The initiative was started by The Blue Yonder, Help Tourism and, in association with Association for Conservation and Tourism to respond to the devastating Cyclone Aila that hit the eastern part of India on 25th May 2009.