I am sure many of you would have often wondered how nice it would be, to have some cool green shade around your house or apartment. Especially with the Jacaranda and Tabebuia trees in full bloom wherever they are left in Bangalore. The sound of birds chirping and perhaps some butterflies or a squirrel or two. Strange as it may sound, there is an entire generation growing up without even realizing that they are missing all this. Our basic connect with nature is moving further and further away, and that cant be good for the human spirit.
The good news is that it possible to add a bit of nature to even the most dreary concrete jungle. If one makes up one’s mind, there’s always a spot where you can plant a tree or two. There’s always a balcony or terrace that can produce an amazing garden. And there are always birds and insects who will be grateful for whatever little space you can give them.
Many of us feel frustrated with not being able to do anything about environmental degradation. But there are plenty of things you can do at an individual level.
Lets start with basic tree and shrub planting in and around your home. This is one of the easiest and most satisfying things you can do. If you & friends / neighbors can plant even a few trees around your house / apt, put tree guards around them and just water them everyday… trust me you’ll feel great as they start to grow and add a splash of green and perhaps even flowers to your horizon. Try it.. acha lagta hai 🙂
This is perhaps the only way we can bring some oxygen back to the city. Mass action from many individuals. Small efforts adding up, and resulting in a wave of change. No one else is going to drop down from heaven and fix it! So if you need a list of trees and shrubs that specifically attract birds and butterflies, there is a list available freely from Subbu, who is well known to the “greens” in the city. He has kindly sent me a pdf file that I have attached in this link.
Where can you get the saplings from? Well, the easiest thing to do is to jump in your car and go over to the nearest Forest department or Horticultural nursery (for e.g the one at Siddapura, near Lalbagh south gate. Not the commercial one inside). They will be glad to give you free saplings, or in some cases for a minimal fee of 10 or 20 bucks.
If however, you need to have someone do the planting for you as well, then there are two choices. Either BBMP or an NGO. You can get trees planted by BBMP who has got many crores allocated just for this (we got them to plant around 100 saplings in our locality.. but it was a bit of luck. They came around with saplings in a van and we pounced on them and supervised the planting) 🙂
If BBMP is difficult to handle, you can also contact “trees for free” and Janet will come with trees and plant them for you, all free of cost, as long as you promise to take care of them.
The only challenge we have faced is in getting tree guards. BBMP is “supposed” to supply them.. but that usually happens only when they are doing the planting. You do get bamboo tree guards for about 100 bucks… or you can fashion them out of twigs / plastic pipes and some metal wire etc as well
To share a live example, we started tree and shrub / flora planting in our apt garden and around it about 2 yrs ago… in this short time, the amount of butterflies and birds it has started attracting is actually quite amazing 🙂 A family of scaly breasted Munia’s even decided to build a nest and raise a family just off my balcony, which was a real treat to watch. The important thing here is to remember not to plant “sterile” varieties of foreign plants that often look good, but support no local insects or birds / animals etc
If you have absolutely no land to plant some trees, you can always set up a small balcony or terrace garden. This now takes a variety of forms. Some people set up herb and kitchen gardens that can supply fresh produce for a small family’s needs. Other turn their windowsill into a profusion of color with various flowering plants. This really isn’t that difficult, once you get the hang of things. To begin with, choose hardy perennials and as you get the hang of container gardening, you can move to all kinds of exotic varieties and experiments. Another great idea for balconies and terrace gardens is to set us a small bird bath, which you keep filled with water. This needs to be shallow and wide, as most birds wont get into anything that is too deep. For many days, you may see no activity. But keep the water fresh, and soon you may see a sunbird or sparrow having a dainty wash amidst your plants! And if you cant be bothered to build a balcony garden from scratch, then just call the folks from my sunny balcony (in Bangalore) and get them to set it up for you!
Finally, one of the reasons why bird life is suffering in urban landscapes, is because certain species have no place left to nest in, because of lack of tree cover and even buildings with nooks and crannies. A simple e.g. is the case of disappearing sparrows, which used to be ubiquitous in many parts of our country before. One of the simplest things we can do, is to set up nesting boxes, wherever possible. In and around your apartment, on balconies, terraces and even on trees. Here again, a group of well meaning folks have got together to give away free sparrow nesting boxes and help with information on how to set them up etc. So all you need to do, is to put in a little bit of effort. And perhaps your kids can actually see how a sparrow family raises its young. Something that is bound to leave an indelible impression on a young mind.
Its very fashionable nowadays to call oneself a green activist and wear your passion on your sleeve. Thats fine. But it is a fact that someone who plants a single tree is creating many years worth of positive difference through action. Please do ask yourself, are you really putting your spade where your mouth is? 🙂