Turning barren land into dense forest in a short time

November 23, 2019

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Jungle tree expert Gaurav Gurjar briefs workshop participants on the Miyawaki method of growing urban forest on Friday.—White Star
Jungle tree expert Gaurav Gurjar briefs workshop participants on the Miyawaki method of growing urban forest on Friday.—White Star

KARACHI: “Nothing could be more exciting than to turn a barren tract of land into a dense forest within a short span of time. When I learnt this technique in 2009, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I have found a treasure that I must share in my home country and across the world.”

That’s how Shubhendu Sharma, a Bangalore-based urban forest grower and trainer, responded to Dawn in an interview on Friday when asked what was so powerful and motivating that made him quit his job as an industrial engineer at one of the world’s leading car manufacturing companies and become a forest grower.

In his mid 30s, Sharma is the director and founder of Afforest, a service provider for creating natural, native, maintenance-free but low-cost forests.

The company has trained people and grown forests in some 20 Indian states and 10 countries so far including the Netherlands, the US, Singapore, Iran and Nicaragua.

“I learnt this technique from Japanese botanist and ecologist Akira Miyawaki when he came to Bangalore in 2009 to assist the company I was associated with in reducing its carbon footprint,” he recalled, adding that he documented the whole process and it took him one and a half years to take it up professionally.

Indian expert holds workshop on urban forestry

In Karachi, Sharma along with his team member and jungle tree expert Gaurav Gurjar and Shehzad Qureshi, heading the Urban Forest, conducted a two-day workshop on Miyawaki forest method for 15 nature lovers.

The day also marked the fourth anniversary of the Urban Forest, a neglected park in Clifton which was adopted by Qureshi who created a small forest of native species here with Sharma’s support.

“I remember, this park was full of garbage when we decided to work here. Shehzad got all the solid waste removed from this place from his own resources. The second challenge we faced was to collect seeds of indigenous species,” he said, regretting the penchant people generally have for exotic species which now dominated the city’s landscapes.

“You can see that this small forest in the middle of the city attracts so many different bird species and butterflies which you won’t see at any other place. The forests created through this method become self-sustaining in two to three years.”

He also talked about the forest he has created in his home’s backyard which, he said, was visited by hundreds of birds.

Lesson of coexistence

At the closing ceremony of the workshop, German Consul General Eugen Wolfarth, who distributed certificates among the participants, appreciated the effort and said that urban forests were very much needed in the city to tackle air, noise pollution and fight climate change.

Qureshi urged the participants to practice what they have learnt and play their role in improving the environment of the city.

Giving her feedback on the workshop, Asma Nasib heading a tissue culture laboratory in the Defence Housing Authority said that it was a great learning experience as the trainers showed them how to grow 21 native species in a 100-square-metre patch.

“We can only wish that the government takes an initiative and turns hundreds of the city’s barren parks green with the help of this cost-efficient method,” she said.

Irfan, a software engineer based in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, expressed his resolve to implement the method back in his hometown.

“We all talk of plants and trees. But, what is the need of the hour is to grow forests to protect our communities, nature and environment.”

Akram Awan, who has a deep interest in butterflies and is preparing to write a book on the insect, was there to educate workshop participants about the kind of trees and plants they needed to grow in forests to attract this vanishing beautiful creature.

Sharing his feelings, Gurjar said: “Trees and forests can’t differentiate [between people and borders].

Humans call themselves to be a superior creature in terms of intelligence than the rest but I believe that there is a lot we can learn from other species and one of them is coexistence.”