It is true progress when people come in as a team and take initiative to connect better with their environment. This is exactly what happened with people from at Chandapura, Bengaluru. Few weeks ago, Mr Ghansham from KHB Surya City, Chandapura got in touch with the Institute for Applied Research and Innovation (InARI) seeking help in redefining the township’s landscape that will sync with their natural habitat. Dr Rajani Kanth Vangala, Director of InARI welcomed the invitation and spoke to them about how people can alter their landscape to restore their local ecological balance. A couple of decades ago, Chandapura and Anekal were home to a large population of migratory birds such as the black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus), Shikra (Accipiter badius), golden-fronted leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons), white-naped tit (Parus nuchalis), Eurasian sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus) and Verditer flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus). Now, after twenty years of human intervention by extreme deforestation and reduced lakes, these birds have vanished in the vicinity of the area. A survey done by the Forest Department of Karnataka in 2012 shows that the number of migratory bird species in this area has drastically been reduced to 22 from 300! This shift in the local eco-balance has prompted the residents of Chandapura to intervene and make an effort in undoing the loss.
The first step towards fixing the local ecological balance of any area lies in planting a number of local varieties of plants that are native to that region. It could be as simple as planting them in your backyard. Some common plants that are native to Chandapura are Gulmohar (Delonix regia), Spathodea (Spathodea campanulata) and Nerale (Syzygium cumini). If you visit Chandapura, you can notice that it is filled with Honge (Pongamia pinnata) trees and thus is natural to assume that it is a native to the place. The survey from the Forest Department of Karnataka in 2012 reveals that Honge in fact is foreign to the place. Ironically, the Forest department itself has been planting these trees there though. The residents feel that this is the forest department’s futile effort to increase the number of trees rather than maintaining the diversity of the locality. This is because Honge is the easiest choice of tree as cattle cannot feed on it, is drought-resistant, easy to grow and becomes a good fertiliser to other plants. Hamsa and Prasanna, residents of Surya City report that a large area of grasslands are being lost in and around Chandapura in the past few years and as a result, ponds in villages close by are drying up and there are fewer birds visiting Chandapura.
After people interacted with Dr Rajani, a bunch of Chandapura residents planned to make their landscape more diverse to attract the birds back. They started a group called “NEST” for all the like minds which picked up momentum when Dr Narayanaswamy, Founder of Athreya Hospital, Chandapura brought together a lot of people and achieved planting about 246 saplings in the vicinity of Surya City on June 2nd, 2019. From the survey that was available, till today they have successfully planted many trees of local origin. Efforts from Chandapura Forest Officers Prashant and Biradhar have made their planting experience seamless. Now, they plan to own each sapling they sow and take responsibility for maintaining the same. By attaching their name to the plant it instils a sense of responsibility and pride in taking care of the plant. Now, people of Chandapura get out of their homes hoping to see a greener landscape and bird watching more.
This is truly a success story and a model for all communities who are looking for ways to sustain their local environment and thus, in the long run, will be a collective effort of putting our environment back on track.