Green piece

Professor Chandra Krishnamurthy talks to Rishi Majumder about her initiative to have students plant and take care of trees

academia in action

Professor Chandra Krishnamurthy, avid environmentalist and Vice Chancellor of SNDT University, thought a few months ago that it would be a good idea to inspire students of the university’s constituent and affiliated colleges and departments to plant a tree each. Now she waits for the seeds planted in young minds to bear fruit in the form of 70,000 trees throughout the country, within campuses and without them.
What prompted the idea?
Much awareness is being spread about the environment and global warming. I want to translate that into action. What better medium than the vast student body? Also, what better way to instil awareness than to make one develop a relationship with a tree?
What will ensure the tree’s maintenance?
The tree will bear the student’s name while he or she looks after it (with the help of an NSS project-in-charge and teacher). The student will be marked on the tree’s condition and if it is not up to the mark, a detailed report will have to be prepared as to what went wrong. This will lead to a more complex understanding of environment. When a student passes out, the tree will be put in the charge of another.

What made so many students volunteer?
There is the incentive of marks, given for extra-curriculars as per the National Social Service (NSS) grades. But also calling to them was an issue as threatening as oxygen depletion where they lived. Then there is the sentimental value of having planted and looked after a tree you can visit later. Finally the credit for the execution goes to the NSS coordinators, campus-incharges and other university faculty and staff who stoked the spirit of the students and supported it.
How were the trees, and the areas they were planted in, chosen?
The kind of tree depends on funds we received or trees donated to us. Then we relied on information gathered by the NSS as to what tree to plant where. In Pune district, we planted Lakshmi Taru, which enriches soil and is essential when land loses fertility due to crop rotation. In Juhu, we planted Bakul, which has fragrant flowers and lives for around 300 years without weakening the foundation of nearby construction. We’re speaking to Raj Bhavan to plant fruit bearing trees in the gardens which will attract birds. In rural Maharashtra, we’re planting Aarita, whose seed is used to manufacture soap, because the locals are keen for such produce. Many such trees may be cultivated and maintained because their fruit provide a livelihood to someone.

This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/yz7v

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