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Satish Lele

Adaptation by Tree Plantation in India

Tree planting: Some local Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) run tree planting workshops with communities in their areas. The aim is to restore native forests around village catchments to protect water supplies.

  1. NGOs grow saplings of native tree species in its nursery, to be planted around water catchments.

  2. The local community helps to plant and care for the saplings, this involvement helps to make people aware of environmental problems and the need to protect forests.

  3. They assist with clearing the land, creating space to plant native trees. They also helps to pay for the cost of growing the saplings.

Prosopsis Julieflora (Vedi Babul in Marathi) is ideal for plantation as it requires very small quantities of water for its survival. The forest floor in the shade formed by a cluster of thorny shrub conserves water. It is important to ensure that the saplings mature, and are cared for in the years after planting. Many tree species planted have additional properties, such as producing fruit or having medicinal value, so that villagers can earn an income from the replanted trees, a further incentive to protect them. NGO provides training on how to care for saplings, and encourages women to get involved. Women are usually responsible for collecting water in the region, and therefore benefit from an improved local water supply. In all communities, a good number of women have participated in sensitization meetings to raise awareness of the problems, and also in planting activities.

The replanted tree cover acts as a store for rain when it falls, and the water is released more slowly than where there is no tree cover. This regulates flows from springs and stream heads. More water is stored in the soil as well, tree cover where the ground was previously burnt reduces the speed of runoff, allowing more water to soak into the soil. Clearing eucalyptus trees also reduces the amount of water being soaked up.
Many places in India have long experienced water shortages due largely due to the planting of Eeucalyptus trees in place of natural vegetation (eucalyptus soak up a lot of water) and poor farming practices, particularly excessive grazing, which often involves burning natural tree cover. Now the problem is getting worse due to climate variability and change an increasing concern for many people in the region.
Planting trees can help to protect local water sources, but the river basins are also central to efforts to prevent climate change (known as mitigation) through avoided deforestation. Trees act as carbon sinks, storing carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that would otherwise be in the atmosphere. As trees are cleared for timber, or burnt for agricultural and industrial development, this carbon is released, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and worsening climate change.

Some other plants which are good for environment

Pongamia Pinnata (Karanj): It is native of coastal India, the pongam tree has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, fertilizer, shade, lubrication, minor construction, and illumination. Pongam trees are deciduous, sub-evergreen trees that may grow up to 25 m tall, thriving in areas from sea level up to 1200 m. Pongam trees prefer areas with a dry season lasting from 2 to 6 months.
Pongamia pinnata is one of the few nitrogen fixing trees (NFTS) to produce seeds containing 30-40% oil. It is often planted as an ornamental and shade tree but now-a-days it is considered as alternative source for Bio- Diesel. This species is commonly called pongam, karanj.
Native to humid and subtropical environments, pongam thrives in areas having an annual rainfall ranging from 500 to 2500 mm. in its natural habitat, the maximum temperature ranges from 27 to 38oC and the minimum 1 to16oC. Mature trees can withstand water logging and slight frost. This species grows to elevations of 1200 m, but in the Himalayan foothills is not found above 600 m.
Pongam can grow on most soil types ranging from stony to sandy to clay, including Verticals. It does not do well on dry sands. It is highly tolerant of salinity. It is common along waterways or seashores, with its roots in fresh or salt water. Highest growth rates are observed on well drained soils with assured moisture. Natural reproduction is profuse by seed and common by root suckers.
Most of these are found along highways, and collection of these seeds is a big business.

Madhuca indica (Mahua): It is a large deciduous tree, found in Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa, in South Indian forests and in Sri Lanka. The 2.5 to 5 cm long, orange brown pipe flesh berry has 1 to 4 shining seeds. Drying and decortification yields kernel, which is 70% of total weight. The yield of seeds varies from 5 to 200 kgs, depending on size and age of tree. The tree starts bearing trees after 10 years, and it bears seeds up to 60 years. At this age, the yield is 10 times more than the yield at the age of 10 years. Recovery of kernel is a village level activity, where there is lack of proper facilities for drying and preservation. Kernel contains 50% oil. The quality of expelled oil, largely depends on storage conditions of kernel, which are susceptible to attacks by fungus and insects.

Azadirachta indica (Neem): The neem tree is an evergreen tree of the mahogany family that is native to India and Burma. It is found in tropical and subtropical climates, withstanding extremely dry conditions, but also tolerating sub-humid conditions. Neem trees are fast-growing and can grow up to 35 m tall, and although evergreen, they will lose their leaves in times of severe drought. They have wide spreading branches creating a scenic, round to oval crown that sits upon a relatively short trunk. One tree can produce millions of flowers, and in one flowering cycle, a mature tree may produce many thousands of seeds. Seeds are small and round to oval in shape, with oil content ranging from 20-33%, depending on the variety.
The Neem has adapted to a wide range of climates. It thrives well in hot weather, where the maximum shade temperature is as high as 49oC and tolerates cold upto 0oC on altitudes upto 1500 m.
The Neem grows on almost all types of soils including clay, saline and alkaline soils, with pH upto 8.5, but does well on black cotton soil and deep, well-drained soil with good sub-soil water. Neem tree needs little water and plenty of sunlight. The tree grows naturally in areas where the rainfall is in the range of 450 to 1200 mm. A Neem tree normally begins to bear fruit between 3 and 5 years and becomes fully productive in 10 years. A mature tree produce 30 - 50 kg. fruit every year. Neem tree has a productive life span of 150 - 200 years.

Simarouba (Laxmitaru): Simarouba Glauca, is an edible oil seed bearing tree, which is well suited for warm, humid, tropical regions. Its cultivation depends on rainfall distribution, water holding capacity of the soil and sub-soil moisture. It is suited for temperature range of 10 to 40oC. the tree is now found in different regions of India. It can be grown on waste tracts of marginal, fallow lands of Southern India.
The tree is native to central and North America. It can grow at elevations from sea level to 1,000 meters. It grows 40 to 50 feet tall and has a span of 25 to 30 feet. It is a tropical tree and rainfall should be at least 400 mm. The depth of the soil should be at least 1 meter. pH of soil should be from 5.5 to 8. It can grow in any type of soil which are unsuitable for cultivation of other crops. The average per hectare yield of Simarouba is : Seed 4 tons, Oil 2.6 tons, cake 1.4 tons. It bears yellow flowers, and oval elongated purple colored fleshy fruits.

Moringa oleifera (Ben-oil tree): The Ben-oil tree is believed to be native to India, Arabia, and possibly even across Africa and the Caribbean. It has been used by tropical societies for centuries as folk remedies, food, living fences, cleaning and disinfecting, lubrication, and cosmetics. The trees are short and slender, rarely growing above 10 m in height, and the seeds are produced in long pods containing about 20 seeds within the pith. The Ben-oil tree is found in subtropical to tropical dry to moist climates, tolerating rainfall from 0.5 to 4 m annually with temperatures ranging from 19 to 28oC. These trees are said to tolerate drought, sandy soils, bacteria, and fungi.
The seeds contain 35-40% nondrying oil, and the remaining seed cake after extraction is reported to be very high in crude protein (nearly 60%), making it a desirable source of animal fodder.