Odisha Engineer Creates ‘Mini Forests’ In 20 Villages To Overcome Damage Due To Cyclones

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Bhubaneswar: The damage to the environment due to frequent cyclones in Odisha was enough to propel electrical engineer Amresh Samant to resurrect the green cover by planting trees. He works at the Paradip Port Trust in the Jagatsinghpur district but during weekends and holidays, the 46-year-old dedicates himself to the green cause in his region.

Born and raised in Biswali village, Amresh had been seeing the damage that came with natural disasters. “There are at least two cyclones in a year in Odisha. The recent cyclones like Fani, Amphan, Phyan and others lead to floods, disrupt human lives while also damaging the environment. There is also tree-cutting in the remote parts of the villages. Realising the rapid loss of green cover, I decided to plant trees,” he told The Better India. He formed an NGO called Baba Balunkeswar Gramya Bikash Parisada to plant trees.

The engineer helped to create ‘mini forests’ across 20 villages of the district. Amresh told The Better India that he started planting trees in 1995 along the banks of rivers and lakes. “We also did row plantations along the sides of the roads and other public spaces. The volunteers helped to maintain the trees. However, as the cyclones hit the coast, the trees were uprooted. I learned that such isolated plantations would not help the trees withstand harsh weather conditions. The environmental damage was more than the number of trees getting planted,” he added.

This is when he introduced a new concept called ‘gramya jungle’ or rural forest in 2015. “We decided to use barren land and unused spaces to create clusters of trees in surrounding villages. However, the villagers opposed the move saying there was no need to give away land for tree plantation. They failed to understand the need to protect the environment which would in turn help reduce the levels of pollution,” he was quoted as saying.

It was not easy for Amresh to change the mindsets of the villagers. He had to conduct special drives and awareness programmes to explain the importance of environmental conservation and to convince people to dedicate an acre or two to tree plantation.

Rapid progress

Over 100 volunteers, including NGOs like Adarsh Prayas, have planted 500 varieties of native trees to create 500 to 1,000 clusters of trees in each village. Amresh and other like-minded environmental enthusiasts have planted nearly one lakh trees to date in 20 villages such as Lunkula, Kendrapura, Gadaromita, Biswali, Mahakalapada, Apania, Pradeeepgarh, among others, the report added.

In 2016, the volunteers planted 300 palm trees to reduce the hazardous impacts caused by lightning in the region. “Lightning bolts disrupted power supply and threatened life in the villages. The tall palm trees will help to reduce these instances,” he adds.

The mini forests are also a haven for birds since clay pots and birdhouses have been placed in them.

Not content with his achievements, Amresh went on to pursue a diploma in Environment and Sustainable Development studies to bring scientific knowledge to his conservation process. “There is more to protecting the environment than just planting trees. So, I completed the course to understand the various aspects of the environment and use the knowledge to increase the greenery in the region,” he told The Better India.

Amresh’s work has received appreciation from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Governor Ganeshi Lal.

“We plan to plant fruit-bearing trees during the following tree plantation drives to increase the biodiversity cover,” he said about his future plans.

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