See, that is my tree, tell me where is yours
Concerned over the regular chopping of trees in Bangalore but with no time to sit on protests, a project manager in Nokia, along with friends, launched an innovative conservation project. “It’s only when we humans own something do we take care of it. Be it our homes, our cars or even a tree,” says Siddalinga Prasad, the man behind the ‘I own a tree’ campaign.
“It’s a default feeling with all humans. If we walk past trees on the road everyday we have no connection with them, but if I own a tree, I am definitely going to point it out to others and say – see that’s my tree!”
‘I own a tree’ campaigners believe in positive action to counter tree cutters. Their policy is “for every tree you cut, we will plant 10 instead.”
Having grown up in Gubbi which is near Tumkur – about 100 km from Bangalore - in a rural setting, Prasad says he has been very close to nature and trees. The tree campaign he spearheads encourages people to own a tree and fix a sticker on their cars to say – I own a tree! He started the campaign in 2008 along with a few colleagues and friends. Since then, they have planted about 20000 trees through various projects and programmes.
“The Rotary Mid Town liked the concept and so we joined hands in 2009 – the Rotary and my Kshiti (Earth) Foundation - and formed an Eco club,” says Prasad. The Rotary takes care of finding the sponsors and the funding for the project. “It’s a simple concept. You pay Rs.365 – at the rate of 50 paise a day for 2 years to fund a tree. We plant and look after the tree for two years till it is able to grow on its own. We also fix a tag to the tree with the sponsor’s name, and tree ID. The sponsor gets a sticker which he fixes to his car with our ‘I own a tree’ logo,” explains Prasad.
They have planted trees in several government school compounds and are now involved in a project with Bangalore University. “Our biggest project is in Bangalore University where we signed a MOU in 2009 with the Vice Chancellor to plant one lakh trees. The University is spread over 800 acres. Dr Prabhudeva the VC has also supported our construction of a check dam in the campus in order to bring up the water table in the area.” They have planted about 15000 trees in the university campus so far.
In case a tree dies, Prasad says the 365 rupees support fund includes an insurance cover to replant a fresh tree. They usually do the planting during the monsoon season and ensure that the saplings are at least 5 feet tall. “The survival rate has been good. But we did lose around 25 percent of the trees in the university last year as the monsoons were delayed and our saplings which we brought in from Honavar could not adjust to their surroundings.”
With the rate at which trees are being cut down in Bangalore, Prasad and his group believe in constructive action. “Rather than protest and shout and waste precious time that we do not have, being professionals who work all week, we prefer taking the stand that ‘for every tree you cut, we will plant 10 instead’.”