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An organization in Chennai is on a tree-planting spree and they have completed planting 3.5 lakh trees in Chennai alone. This is not the typical tree-planting drive with volunteers. This is raising small forests in a systematic way.

Hafiz Khan founder of Communitree

The objective is greening degraded, barren and empty lands available in industrial estates, large apartment complexes and at establishments like railways, police and defence lands, says Hafiz Khan, founder of Communitree. The project started in September 2018 and has completed planting 7 lakh tree saplings across the country. Apart from Chennai, the organization has planted trees in Tuticorin and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.

Volunteers can join not necessarily for just planting trees. They are encouraged to spend time in the forest. They can do activities like yoga, robotics, painting or literary events in these forests.

The organization enters into a contract with the establishments to raise the forests in the degraded or empty lands. It employs 100 permanent gardeners to plant and maintain trees.

Volunteers can join not necessarily for just planting trees. They are encouraged to spend time in the forest. They can do activities like yoga, robotics, painting or literary events in these forests.

The forests are created based on the requirement of a locality. A thick forest may not serve the purpose of an apartment complex. It would require a butterfly park.

A fruit forest with fruit-bearing trees is ideal for school premises. Students like such forests and share the fruits among themselves.

An industrial complex can raise a full-fledged forest bringing back an entire ecosystem of birds and small animals.

The organization identifies the requirement first and creates a forest later. They take the help of street vendors and tea sellers to collect manure like tea dust and eggshells.

The empty shells are collected from tender coconut vendors. “They were reluctant to provide such things at first. When they realize their trash could raise trees, they get drawn. At some point, they start to get involved actively. It is a gradual process,” explains Khan.

Native tree species are selected for these community forests. There are around 150 such native species including well-known ones like neem. Tree saplings are collected from different nurseries to make a pool of these tree species.

The organization identifies the requirement first and creates a forest later. They take the help of street vendors and tea sellers to collect manure like tea dust and eggshells.

Once the forest is raised, the community is involved to maintain them. They are encouraged to spend some time and get attached. For instance, a butterfly park in an apartment complex lifts the mood of residents. When this community involvement happens, the residents start protecting the trees. “When we enter into the contract for creating forests, we insist that the establishments allow such community participation during our maintenance period of three years,” Khan added.


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