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Afforestation and Mangrove Restoration

Environment - Chennai

Sarathu Kanagai Nagar Village, Pammadukulam Panchyat, Ambattur Taluk, Red Hills, Thiruvallur District 

'Greening' of Chennai Programme

  • Chennai is a water-starved city with a mere 3% forest cover, the lowest in India. Pollution levels are extremely high. Due to urban development and increased traffic, reclaimed water bodies are rapidly being replaced by housing colonies.

  • A major concern for Chennai is the pollution of ground water through seawater intrusion via the Buckingham Canal.

  • In 2011, we established a comprehensive forest nursery on 5 acres of land adjoining Red Hills Lake, which is an abundant source of water. The nursery comprises a mix of local indigenous species to cater to various soil conditions and Chennai’s needs:

    • a high exchange of oxygen;

    • shade trees for park areas;

    • species that can be planted on pavements that don’t disturb surface areas;

    • worker trees for soil conversion in rocky areas and to combat soil erosion, especially on hill slopes;

    • trees to serve as windbreakers for cyclonic winds.

  • Mangroves, though largely ignored, are a vital part of coastline flora. Some species are natural desalination plants as they absorb the salt from brackish water and freshen brackish water lakes. The ability of mangrove root systems to freshen ground water reverses the loss of ground water through seawater intrusion.

  • When Cyclone Thane struck in 2011, West Bengal and Goa were barely affected due to their vast mangrove forests, whereas Tamil Nadu was devastated. 

Forest Tree Nursery Programme

  • Forest trees are raised and then transplanted in the city and its suburbs to achieve: 

    • a change in weather patterns to stabilize day and night temperatures and increase air humidity;

    • precipitation including rain and regular monsoons;

    • increased oxygen levels and decreased pollution levels;

    • the prevention of harmful land pollutants contained in soils entering waterways;

    • diminished topsoil erosion due to wind and rain and a decline in water run-off, ensuring that groundwater supplies are continually replenished, especially in coastal areas;

    • enriched soil through constant decomposition of leaves.

  • To date, over 25 000 saplings have been distributed locally.

  • Financial support would enable us to plant our target of 500 000 forest trees in water-starved Chennai annually.

  • This would translate into 4 million trees in the city within 8 years, greening all city roads, parks, schools, institutions, corporate and private lands and open spaces. 

Return of the Mangroves

  • Fourteen species native to Tamil Nadu have been sourced from one of the world’s largest mangrove habitats, the Sunderbans, and are being raised in simulated mangrove conditions using simple techniques.

  • The mangroves will be transplanted in backwater stretches in Thiruvallur District and appropriate areas in South Chennai.

  • Benefits of Mangroves:

    • Enriched soil through constant decomposition of leaves.

    • Breeding grounds for fish and crustaceans and therefore increased fisheries.

    • Support for a range of wildlife species that find shelter in their roots and branches.

    • Improved coastal water quality and freshened lakes and water bodies through filters in their root systems.

    • Reversal of loss of ground water through seawater intrusion.

    • Effective bulwark against natural disasters (tsunamis, cyclones, tidal waves and sea erosion).

    • Prevention of harmful land pollutants contained in soils entering waterways.

    • Lung spaces-1 hectare sequesters 3.2 tonnes of carbon per annum.

    • Indigenous medicines and products.

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