For an ecosystem to be thriving, we need a dense weave of different species – plants, herbivores and carnivores. In the last 3 decades alone, we have seen agricultural use increase enormously; pollution, such as agricultural run-off, has degraded our rivers and the species living therein. Global warming is increasing too fast for species to be able to adapt, while increases in Co2 heats up the earth’s surface temperature.
However, we also know that with appropriate conservation measures, habitat degradation can not only be reversed but made rich and thriving again. Rejuvenating and reviving existing water sources enables vegetation of all sorts to be planted; this in turn will attract animals, birds and insects. Tree roots retain soil and channel water down into the ground. Little by little, with concentrated management of agriculture by organic, natural means, soil ecology will start to improve, leading to more species being able to be supported.
Our plantations use 10-15 species of trees, all planted to be eco-friendly, i.e. to attract birds, bees, and insects. Seed fall will attract insects for decomposition, resulting in breakdown into soil richness and health.
All have been chosen for their use as medicine, timber, or fodder for humans and beasts. For e.g., Pongamia Glabra ticks many boxes: bunches of white, honey bearing flowers attracts bees; seeds are made into medicinal oil and can also be used for lamps, and made into diesel. However, it is also chosen for its glabrous, shiny leaves which reflect sunlight so its shade is very cool, and cools climate under and around it. Jambunerala is a medicinal tree, good for diabetes, and Sapindus Sapinaria, the fruits of which lather into a natural soap, avoids water pollution by parabens and other chemicals so widely used in cleaning products today.
This is a deliberate return to native species known to have grown successfully in the area 30-40 years ago before Government and farmers planted exotic species such as eucalyptus and acacia which, although easy to maintain, suck up all the water thereby depleting ground water and are not attractive to birds or bees.
All the species planted, which are carefully monitored and watered for the first 6 months by the tree-planting company with spot-checks by River Rejuvenation team, are then handed over to the Gram Panchayat to look after, thus fostering a local sense of responsibility and stewardship of their local area.