Birdsong returns as bizman turns barren land to green patch
Twenty years ago, when repeated complaints to the Coimbatore corporation to prevent anti-social elements from frequenting an open space reserve site near his house proved futile, Mahendra Ramdas decided to take things into his own hands. Ramdas, 59, cleared the tall grass and bushes in the plot and planted a few native species in the place. Today the plot located at New Damu Nagar in Puliyakulam is a lush green lung space of the neighbourhood that houses more than 25 species of fruit and flower bearing plants. It is also equipped with natural trenches, a compost site and bird feed area.
More than 20 species of birds including rare species visit the park every day. It also houses a children’s play area. To maintain the site, Ramdas spends around `4,000 every month from his pocket. His efforts have inspired other residential welfare associations who seek advice from him on developing similar sites in their respective areas.
“When I we came to this area in 1987, there were not many houses in this area. Men used to hang around drinking on the OSR land. They dumped bottles and waste there. When petitions to corporation officials went unheard, I decided to clean the space myself. Me and my watchman first cleared the bushes and planted peepal, mayflower and thoonga moonji trees bordering the land,” says Ramdas, the managing director of Mahendra pumps private limited.
To prevent water from stagnating in the garden during rain, Ramdas dug trenches around every tree. In the centre, he dug out a seven-foot pit in which he started dumping garden waste to generate manure. “Shorter trees were planted on the eastern side to ensure that trees on the western side did not lose out on sunlight,” he says.
Plants such as manila tamarind, curry tree, millingtonia (mara malli) and Singapore cherries have been planted to attract bees and butterflies. Trees like Indian jujubi, bauhinia and Java plum (jamun) have been planted to attract birds like koel, parrots and cuckoo. Silk cotton tree was planted to attract sun birds that have become rare in urban spaces.
Inspired by this model reserve site, corporation officials including two city mayors have visited the site in the past two decades. One also helped Ramdas set up the children’s play area. Several people in the locality also donate saplings to the park.
“As urban areas suffer from space crunch, we should ensure that scientific and engineering knowledge is used while developing these spaces. Sadly, most reserve sites only have ornamental plants and a lawn that is normally called a ‘green desert,” says Vinny Peter, an environmentalist.
Ramdas tells us of having instructed his children and grandchildren to maintain the land as it is after him. “It is not that difficult. One just needs to have some passion and love for nature,” he adds.