One of the ways of fighting global warming is to increase forest or tree cover. That said, plantation drives are usually costly and time consuming. Nevertheless, Prasada Rao Vaddarapu IFS, the Managing Director of Tripura Rehabilitation Plantation Corporation, has come up with the unique Tree Bank project which is not only cost-effective and convenient but also eliminates the risk of plants getting damaged.
What are Tree Banks?
Tree Banks are similar to nurseries. They are spaces where pole size trees are readily available to be transported for plantation activities. These trees are with minimum collar girth of 20 cm and minimum height of 4 mt and can be transported immediately. This facilitates effective and quick generation of green belts at very low cost along roadsides and in barren lands.
The concept was developed at Forest Research Division, Gandhigram, Agartala. Prasad Rao IFS, was posted as the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Forests Research Division, Forest Department of the Government of Tripura, when he took up this work.
Rao studied the root spread of a naturally grown Mahogany tree with a height of 15 feet and a collar girth of 22cm. This height enables the tree to withstand strong wind pressure, while its foliage is above the browsing height as well. He found that its taproot has grown to a depth of 45 cm from the surface of soil and majority of its fibrous roots is spread within the radius of 25 cm horizontally, occupying about 4 cft of soil.
These measurements helped Rao to design the size of polybags with sufficient thickness to last for four years, in which such plants can be developed. Thus the size of the polybag is standardized as 70cm x 77.5 cm with 500 micron gauge.
Hence, after transplanting one year old seedling in the polybag in a standardized potting mixer, a pole size tree of 20 cm collar girth and 12 feet height is generated. These are kept at tree banks, ready to be transported and planted at a barren land.
Why tree banks?
According to Prasada Rao IFS, the usual method implied huge costs. “Traditionally we used to plant seedlings which were about 3-4 feet high. To protect the small plants we needed a plant guard which costs around 1000-2000 rupees. Plant guards were a necessity as there was no alternative method. To cut down the costs we adopted this new method,” he explained.
The pole size trees are 12 ft in height and have a collar girth of 20cm, which make them naturally advantageous. “It is beyond the grazing height of animals. Moreover, the height is sufficient enough to tolerate wind speed or any damage from animals or human intervention,” Rao enunciated.
Apart from saving the expenditure of plant guards and fences, the trees can be utilized immediately for ecological services. Moreover, in one year these trees attain a height similar to those attained by regular ones in two to three years.
Overcoming all odds
Rao faced some problems convincing the authorities about the new method but eventually they came on board for implementing this new project. Getting the appropriate polybags of the desired size was difficult as well. Later on they were sourced from Kolkata.
Though transportation of the big trees in open vans is a costly affair, the expenses were much less as compared to the cost of putting up plant guards. “The cost of raising one of these pole size trees is Rs 300-350 but when compared to the overall cost of plant guard and fencing it is minimal. It is hardly 15-20 percent of the cost incurred in the conventional method,” Prasada Rao shared.
The success story
Prasada Rao Vaddarapu, a 2010 batch forest officer had been developing this Tree Bank project for the last 4 years. He began working while he was posted as the DFO of Teliamura of Khowai district. In 2018 he launched the pilot project along National Highway 44. “Our forest authorities have supported the initiative throughout and we have also received assistance from MGNREGA funding,” Rao informed. Today his Tree Bank project has garnered appreciation from all quarters. This officer with an innovative bent of mind has also trained the locals of Tripura to make value-added products like water bottles using bamboo to reduce usage of plastic water bottles.
“This is a very cost effective method and a sustainable way of afforestation. It can be taken up in almost all the states. We can save a lot of public money by this process and spend it for the welfare of the citizenry,” he signed off.