How a felled tree fuelled a movement to protect all other trees in Whitefield

Whitefield Rising, a citizens group in Bengaluru, was led to start a tree survey when a banyan tree standing on the footpath at Whitefield Main Road was chopped overnight to clear the way for a commercial project. Following this, residents filed a complaint with the police station. They also decided to count the trees in their area and take up their maintenance.

In 2019, Neralu Whitefield (‘Neralu’ meaning shade in Kannada) was launched with a plan to cover the arterial roads in the neighbourhood – extending close to 20 km.

Using WhatsApp for coordination, a Facebook page for communication, and a mobile application for documenting photos of trees, the drive took off.

Weekend volunteering

Some guiding principles laid down by the core team before reaching out to residents to enlist them as volunteers: The exercise will only be taken up during weekends and in the morning; one could walk or cycle and the entire family was encouraged to be part of the count.

The core team was broken into smaller teams of three members each and allocated stretches ranging from one to two kilometres.

“We gave a code to every stretch — such as KG stood for Kundanahalli Gate, HC for Hoodi Circle and WC for Whitefield Club, a major landmark,” says Pravir Bagrodia, a volunteer with Whitefield Rising.

iNaturalist, a mobile application, was chosen to document the details. “The free app had to be downloaded by a volunteer in the team and it allowed one to create folders like ‘Whitefield Neralu’,” says Pravir.

A team’s responsibility included taking a picture of a tree, measuring its girth and lettering the tree with the numbering system.

“While the app captured the photo, the number, the tag and the girth, we also had an Excel document that gave some details like the location of the tree besides the name of the volunteers, the day the exercise was taken up and the number of trees counted,” he says.

Pravir says 1500 trees were counted over a span of a few months. “The maximum trees found in a marked area was around 100 trees in a kilometre.”

“Wherever possible, we tried identifying the tree variety,” Pravir lists the names of jamun, Gulomohar and Ashokam. The exercise also saw volunteers removing nails and posters from trees.

Neralu Whitefield made residents walk a lot more. When they stopped counting, planting started and this became another byproduct of the initiative.

“Wherever we found the number of tress to be low, we undertook planting but with the help of BBMP. They brought the saplings and manpower and our volunteers helped identify the right spot,” says Pravir.

A few concerns

The emulsion paint markings on the trees would not last long. “But when a tree disappeared we had a record of the tree, thanks to the photo and other details,” he says. The main expenditure for this census had to do with the purchase of emulsion paint, which was managed through crowd funding.

On suggestions to other resident groups planning similar exercises, Pravir says they could check for new apps and paint as there has been much evolution in this area over the last two years.

With regard to finding volunteers, Pravir says at Whitefield Rising it is not an issue, especially where it concerns environment.

“We brainstormed a lot; we encouraged the entire family to participate in it, and forming small teams of two to three worked,” says Pravir.

The citizens’ group plans to take up the second phase of this project where the idea is to take stock of old and new trees on the stretch.

(Think ‘Glocal’ is a section that features sterling initiatives by residents’ groups across the country to help others)

Source: Read Full Article