Win-Win green moves can transform lives

There is a report today of the Standard Chartered Bank and Scope International partnering the Isha Foundation for a greening drive. Apparently, an impressive 20,000 saplings were distributed under the plan. With a little interest among middle class residents, some of those saplings can indeed grow into trees.

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But such initiatives are too small and too sparse. What we need is one sapling for every vehicle with an internal combustion engine that is registered in Chennai daily. To me that would conservatively mean planting about one thousand saplings every day. It is banks like Standard Chartered that finance the purchase of many of these vehicles and they should be doing a lot more. The cost of a sapling of a commercially valuable tree is no more than 50 rupees (the price of a hybrid mango sapling that would, in the natural course yield fruit in a few years). Which is to say that for a token amount, the earth-damaging gases that the tailpipes of these vehicles emit can be absorbed and trapped by the greenery. Is the corporate sector serious about all this ? Are our rulers interested? These are difficult questions. I am not even mentioning the benefits to the climate that would accrue from such ideas.

Pasumai Vikatan reports in its March 25 issue that a family in Erode chose to distribute at a wedding, not the traditional fruit thamboolam (a gift for invitees) but a tree sapling. This is the second time that the family is doing it. Interestingly, when the invitations were sent out for the wedding, those invited reported happily that the sapling thamboolam from the first wedding had nicely grown into a tree in two years.

Which also reminds me that we could be doing so much more with the good fruit seeds that we throw away each year. Cities have a great appetite for mangoes of good varieties, such as alphonso, banganapalli, malgova and so on. Each fruit has a seed that can yield a thousand more fruits, if it had the chance. All that we need to do is to have someone collect these seeds, germinate them and plant them in appropriate places in Tamil Nadu. There is a lot of land available; the districts surrounding Chennai are now becoming part of the urban agglomeration and the panchayats there have so much of land. Some of it is set apart by law, under Open Space Reservation rules.

Almost like magic, these saplings could transform local micro-economies or at least feed a few people. It is all so simple that it may sound utopian to some. I tried to get a socially-minded friend (who invited Self-Help Groups to set up stalls at his son’s wedding so that the guests would make purchases) to pursue this mango seed plan a couple of years ago. He did try, calling the scheme Mango Magic. But we need the magic to be worked a lot more.

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