With urbanisation and Cyclone Vardah killing much of the city’s green cover, the Chennai Corporation is hoping to reverse the trend soon by creating dense clusters of trees in the urban spaces, employing Japanese method of Miyawaki. The target is to create at least one Miyawaki forest in every zone, apart from 57 parks across the city
The civic body had already created two Miyawaki forests by planting more than 2,400 saplings on 23,000 sq ft land in Kotturpuram and 762 saplings on 6,000 sq ft land in Valasaravakkam. “We are going to create at least one Miyawaki forest in every zone. To achieve this target, we have directed our zonal-level officials to identify vacant land parcels that are suitable for planting saplings,” an official with the Chennai Corporation said.
Apart from creating Miyawaki forests using its funds, the civic body is also assisting corporate firms and non-governmental organisations to create urban forests using the new method. “With the help of corporate firms, we have planted more than 10,000 saplings near Moolakothalam burial ground,” the official added.
Presently, the Chennai Corporation areas have lesser green cover than the national average with only around 15 per cent green cover. The national average green cover is 24.56 per cent. On the other hand, Chennai Metropolitan Area’s green cover is much lesser than the Chennai Corporation areas with around 9.5 per cent. It is learnt that the majority of the city’s green cover is contributed by the dense woods in Guindy National Park, IIT Madras Campus and other campuses around Guindy area in Adyar zone.
Meanwhile, Dr S Balaji, former principal chief conservator of forests said the green cover in extended areas is lesser than the core city areas. “However, the extended zones have more open space reserves (OSR land) and they are suitable for developing urban forests,” he opined.
Thousands of avenue trees and trees in the parks were uprooted during Cyclone Vardah and the civic body found that the majority of trees uprooted were foreign species. Following this, the civic body, along with Care Earth Foundation, had identified around 90 native tree species to plant across the city.
The Care Earth Foundation has recommended the trees based on the road width and suggested canopy trees on wider roads. Straight trees have been suggested for narrower roads.
During 2018-2019, the Chennai Corporation had planted 23,000 trees along city roads to restore the green cover that was lost during Cyclone Vardah. The state government also had directed the civic body to plant 50,000 trees during 2019-2020 and officials have completed the planting of more than 25,000 saplings.
“We are not spending any money on the planting of these 50,000 saplings. The saplings we planted were contributed by corporate firms and non-governmental organisations. We will continue to invite CSR funds to increase the green cover of the city,” the official said.
The official also clarified that the urban forests would not have any play equipment or other structures similar to parks as the civic body intends to increase the green cover only.
New parks on the anvil
“We have identified land parcels across the city, and we will also utilise OSR (Open Space Reserve) lands for creating new parks. The project also includes the creation of playfields, wherever adequate spaces are available,” the official said.
It may be noted that the civic body is already maintaining as many as 632 parks of varied sizes and 163 roadside parks.
Apart from this, the civic body has taken up works for as many as 20 parks and works are underway. From 2015-2016 financial year to 2017-2018, the civic body had inaugurated 55 new parks in the city at a total cost of Rs 37.74 crore. Also, the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT) has taken up a project to plant trees along the banks of Cooum River starting from Paruthipattu to the river mouth for Rs 36.61 crore. The total length of the plantation would be 60 kilometres.
Forest along canals
Another such project has been finalised along Mambalam Canal using Smart City funds and the civic body has decided to use the Miyawaki method to plant create forest along the canals.