Once arid, this quaint Indian suburb shows world an emulative green transformation

The discrepancies in the climate pattern around the globe has kept environmentalists on their toes in raising awareness on climate change as well as kept policymakers puzzled over cutting down carbon emissions. Representative image: FG Trade Latin/iStock

Bengaluru: As the discrepancies in the climate pattern around the globe have kept environmentalists on their toes in raising awareness about climate change as well as kept policymakers puzzled over cutting down carbon emissions, here is the story of an Indian city that sets an example to the world.

Much has been written about how Bijapur, now Vijayapura, known for its aridity and brutal summers, is slowly blossoming into a green paradise. It had two things going for it: political will as well as push from people.

Karnataka's large and medium industries and infrastructure minister M B Patil did two things that set the ball rolling in 2015 when he was the irrigation and water resources minister. He got the irrigation department to fill the tanks and lakes in the district with water and the forest department to hand out saplings to people at the same time, ensuring a higher survival rate for the plants. Meanwhile, NGOs began motivating people to do their bit for the 1 crore plants in five years' dream aka Koti Vruksha Abhiyan'.

In less than 10 years, nature lovers have a lot going for them in Vijayapura. The district is now home to one of the largest urban forest plantations over 600 acres planted with 60,000 and odd native species of trees. In all, over 1.30 crore saplings have already been planted, and with drip irrigation powered by solar, it was possible to achieve a 98% survival rate for plants, according to Society for Protection of Plants and Animals (SPPA), an NGO that oversaw the effort.

Can Vijayapura be replicated in other parts of India?
It is a monumental task, but it can be and should be replicated, says Patil in an interview to PTI. According to him, the biggest problem is that, typically in a government-run project, various departments work independently, even if they have a common goal.

But it has to be a coordinated effort. In the case of Vijayapura, Patil said he personally ensured that the project ran smoothly. Patil said he simply wanted to increase the forest cover. He wanted to do something when he heard that it was a dismal 0.17%, the lowest in Karnataka. He was thinking how difficult it would be to distribute saplings for people to plant.

That was not simple. In the first year, there were no enough saplings. Then they were grown in nurseries. So, different kinds of native species that are beneficial to farmers were grown in more than 20 nurseries. Patil's son Dhruv, professional wildlife photographer and president of the NGO SPPA, said, initially, they also thought that farmers would be happy to get saplings cheap that they had to pay only 10% for it.

When they were given what they wanted, mostly red sandalwood along with mangoes and other fruit trees they started coming back for more. That's when the whole agro-forest movement took off. The NGO stepped in and the campaign was called Koti Vruksha Abhiyan. Working together with forest department officials, the NGO held events in schools, held marathons, and so on to make people invest in green and lush Vijayapura.

People really chipped in too. They did their part as an employee, as a citizen and so on. What happened in Vijayapura can be a model for a passionate group of people to form trust and bring in all the stakeholders together. The impact that the project, a combined effort, brought forth, exceeded the expectations, Dhruv said.

Two weeks ago, when the rest of Karnataka was facing high temperatures, Vijayapura had first showers of the season. Over 185 species of birds have been documented in these block plantations, and more migratory birds like flamingos and bar-headed geese are heading to Vijayapura.
(With inputs from PTI)

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