Because Every Day is Environment Day for Him!

This Environment Day was no different for us. As for any Nature lover, everyday is Environment day! Dr Prashant Phalak's thoughts are no different. His love for trees is so captivating and appealing that people around him too start loving trees. That includes me too! :)

I remember..due to government service of my father, we have been shifted to numerous cities and villages during my childhood. Frankly, I hated this as I have to leave my school, friends & everything. I hated this from the bottom of my heart. Eventually, I used to forget all these things though. But I vividly remember one thing, that wherever we had been shifted, my father used to plant there number of saplings. Trees near residential quarters, near hospital and wherever possible. Obviously the plantation was followed by watering & nurturing till we move to another place. How many trees planted, nobody knows..even he don't know!

Today, when I count the saplings we plant; he advises not to count them. Mother Nature never does that. She give us countless things selflessly. Not demanding anything in return! But the statistics are necessary for follow up. And while being proud of my father; for others to get inspired, I continue to mention the numbers..! :)

One thing I would like to share with you all, in recent couple of years we got a chance to visit few of those places. The places where once we used to live. And my father made sure to show me all the saplings planted by him, which have grown up into big trees. Just like when one meets an old friend after a decade or two, he was admiring the trees with sparkling eyes. I felt WOW, just couldn't express that moment in words!


Even a small word of appreciation is enough to make one's day. This 5th June, Dr Prashant Phalak, the inspiration and motivation behind Gifting Trees...; is awarded with Paryavaran Puraskaar. It is an award which is given to the individuals who have done remarkable work for the benefit of our environment. On the great occasion of World Environment Day, he was awarded by Honorable Minster (Environment and Cultural Affairs) Mr Sanjay Deotale. The news is covered by couple of leading News Papers.

Cheers to his spirit! Cheers to his love for trees!! A big  thank you to all the tree lovers, friends and supporters!!!

‘Vasanta’ - The King of Ritus

Vasant is a Ritu...Indian season which represents Spring. Indian year which is based on Moon is made up of six Ritus…namely Vasant, Grishma, Varsha, Sharad, Hemant, and Shishir. Though each & every Ritu has her own beauty; I think Vasant is the most fabulous amongst all. In this season, Mother Nature shows off her tremendous beauty. 

The beginning of Vasant Ritu fills pleasure in each & every particle of Nature. Blooming trees, shrubs & climbers and the aroma pleases our mind. Hence the season have remained all time favorite Ritu for many ancient writer and poets. Kalidasa was undoubtedly one of the greatest poets in classical Sanskrit literature. Vasant Ritu when sets in, there is a sense of excitement in the air - the romance, the jolliness, Nature’s finest manifestation in all her beauty- Vasanta, as Kalidasa calls it, is certainly the 'Rituraaja' - the king of seasons.


Vasant and Beauty of Nature has an inseparable inter-connection. It is time for every bush and tree to spring to life with blooms & bursts of colour and fragrance, vibrant as sparklers in festivals.

Indian rich heritage and mythology have wonderfully described the importance of Vasant. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagwad Gita that in all seasons, He is the Vasant. The festival of Vasant is celebrated in India on the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha and so is called Vasant Panchami; but the concept behind it goes deeper than mere calculation of the days of the moon. To understand the true significance of the festival it would be instructive to understand the essence of Goddess Saraswati, the presiding deity of learning, aesthetics and creativity. 

One thing important to note is Vasant or spring do not begin at once across the length & breadth of our country. For instance, in Maharashtra, Vasant season is approximately from 16 February to 15 April; whereas In North states, the Ritu visits a bit later. After mid-April, here starts the Grishma Ritu. In Maharashtra, number of trees like Palash, Mango, Pongam, Indian RosewoodJava Plum, Mahua, Sorrowless tree, Semal, Indian Siris, Pride of  India, Gamhar, Sonpattta, Indian Coral tree etc bloom in Vasant Ritu only. According to me, it is the best season to visit forests or sanctuaries to view these flowering beauties. The flower is a beautiful symbol of life & regeneration as it leads to seed and then to another plant. Hence Vasant is also known as Kusumakara.  

In Vasant, the gardens are bustling with activity - the constant droning of the bees, the chirping of the birds, the call of the Asian Koel and the constant rustling of the leaves. The pleasant warm sunshine and the breeze set up a highly romantic atmosphere. Vasanta is also known as “Madhumaasa“, which brings lovers together...forever! With all the beauty and fragrance of Vasant Ritu in mind, here are we celebrating 'Gifting Trees...'s 4th anniversary. Is that a coincidence? I think not... :D

In last year, we have planted 7 native trees. Though we have saved couple of plants, sadly we lost few previously planted trees due construction works in the premises. So we replaced them with these new saplings. In summer one has to take extra care of the planted sapling. Last years we experienced few surprises too! Earlier we used water the plants and so we had some days devoted for watering. On some of the watering days, we found few of the saplings near a building were already watered...

"Wow!"

Not because it saved our efforts...but for few have understood the importance of native trees in urban areas! :)

Our Ecosystems : Trees!


Gifting Trees... turns three today. So fast time flies! When we look back at our journey with trees and with all you readers, it bring us immense joy that more & more tree-lovers are not only asking about native trees, but also trying to plant a few. We would like thank all of them for their love and support!

Few readers also asked us whether we do it for money or as a business. We are sorry for disappointing them as our prime motto is to spread awareness about Native trees & Green Living; and not to earn money! :)

I, personally, am really sorry for not writing any post in last few months. I was busy in my professional work. Also I just don't want to repeat the similar facts/things which are published in previous posts. Instead, I would like to have some reciprocation from you guys if you want to know anything more. May it be any native tree or anything else related to Mother Nature. Like, one of the readers asked me about 'How bad is Plastic?' There definitely will be a post in upcoming time, throwing some light on this very subject.

In last year, We have planted 15 native saplings and saved a Acacia & a Jujube tree from felling. How many trees have you..? Let there be few native trees dedicated to your loved ones..! Because these trees silently teach us many important lessons. Have a heart like trees and learn how to be grateful to the ones who have ever helped you.

Trees love us selflessly, they grow, fight against adversities and dedicate their whole life serving us. But instead of expressing our gratitude, we cut them down insensibly.

They are one of the greatest resources of the Mother Earth and the most gracious & faithful company. They offer shelter, delicious foods and beautiful life, give us fresh strength by purifying air and teach us wise lessons to live a happy and motivated life. They serve humanity in every possible way only to return our single help of seeding them. Today, we have distinct sympathy with nature...we no more feel their pain when we tear their leaves, no more hear the scream when we chop them down, no more hear the part of their joy when its raining; which leads us to accomplish the most shameful acts such as deforestation and our own destruction.

If you love trees, show it and act likewise! Just remember these line by an unknown author... “We say we love flowers, yet we pluck them. We say we love trees, yet we cut them down. And people still wonder why some are afraid when told they are loved..!”

Our Ecosystems : Soil

A farm, a rain forest or a residential colony..what is the similarity between these three? Well, the answer is that none of these familiar scenes could exist without soil. We simply can not survive without it. Soil is not just ‘what crops grow in’ as we know or not just ‘what full of bacteria’ as we see in soap advertisements; but it is much more besides. The reality is it plays an important role in producing our food, clothing and shelter we need. It also provides a base for our industries and many of our leisure activities. In spite of this dependence, we often treat the soil as if it were an inexhaustible resource which we do not need to care for! We take it for granted!!

Nowadays, most people are more aware of environmental issues. Acid rain, air pollution, global warming, conserving endangered plants and animals, to name but a few, have all received a great deal of attention in recent years. Yet why do we rarely consider that the soil beneath our feet may be affected by an equally diverse range of problems? To many people, soil is just ‘dirt’, something that is used for growing plants in the back garden, or that farmers use for producing crops. But there is far more to soil than this. Without soil, life as we know it simply would not be able to exist. Without a range of soils we would not be able to enjoy so many different habitats, plants and animals, nor would we be able to put the soil to the number of uses that we do to benefit society.

Soil is a vital part of the natural environment. It is just as important as plants, animals, rocks, landforms, lakes and rivers! How?

It harbors all of the plant species and provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms. It controls the flow of water and chemical substances between the atmosphere and the Earth, and acts as both a source and store for gases (like oxygen and carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. Soils not only reflect natural processes but also record human activities both at present and in the past. It is therefore part of our cultural heritage.

Soil, together with the plant and animal life it supports, its position in the landscape and the climate it experiences, form an amazingly intricate natural system - more powerful and complex than any machine that man has created. Soil may look still and lifeless, but this impression couldn’t be further from the truth. It is constantly changing and developing through time. Soil is always responding to changes in environmental factors, along with the influences of man and land use. Some changes in the soil will be of short duration and reversible, others will be a permanent feature of soil development.

A difficulty with soils being underneath us is that we cannot really see when things are going wrong, as we can when plants and animals disappear or die.

But why we need to know all this?
Soil can look after itself, can’t it?

There is a tendency of humans to assume that everything is ‘all right’. But, in many parts of the world, misuse of the soil has brought about a whole list of major environmental disasters. In both the past and at present, this neglect has led to catastrophic consequences. The effect of drought on over-farmed land is a familiar example, but there is good evidence that the collapse of several ancient civilizations were influenced at least in part by mismanagement of the soil.

Whilst the situation around us is not like this, there are still several issues of concern. Soil erosion, pollution, acidification, loss of fertility and loss of organic matter all occur in different parts of the country. These problems result either directly or indirectly from using inappropriate management techniques on particular soils.

It should be evident that when we talk about nature conservation and environmental protection the well-being of soils must also be a major consideration.

Soil is essential for many of mankind’s activities. Yet it is a part of our environment which is frequently taken for granted. We only start to take notice when it becomes damaged in some way, for example by pollution or erosion.

Even then, the damage to the soil itself is not always the main issue. Instead, it is the follow-on effects on other parts of the environment that receive much of the attention. We must understand that the rate of soil development is extremely slow. It has taken hundreds, thousands and, in some environments, millions of years to produce the range of soils that exist today. The soil is not an unlimited resource to be lost or damaged by poor management as just a few years of inappropriate use can, in some instances, seriously harm a soil which has developed over centuries.

Soils are also home to an amazingly large number of different organisms. In fact, scientists believe that there are probably more individual species living below ground than above the surface. We have as yet only identified a fraction of them. Worms, beetles, caterpillars, ants and larger animals like rodents are all obvious soil creatures. However, just one teaspoon of soil will also contain up to several million protozoa (probably the simplest form of animal life), bacteria, algae and nematodes. Many of these species are vital to the proper functioning of soils.

The life sustaining ability of soil is best understood by appreciating the complex cycles of decay and erosion. Its natural formation occurs in a series of layers starting at the surface but gradating down to the deepest bedrock. The surface layer is where active decomposition begins. Exposure to atmospheric elements, surface warmth and moisture helps to break organic matter into loose mulch like material. At the microscopic level, this layer is teeming with a diversity of bacterial, fungal and algal life forms. In combination with larger organisms like beetles and worms they provide the additional recycling activity to enable minerals and nutrients to be retrieved from the decaying organic matter and returned to the soil. Another family of soil based micro-organisms are involved in relationships that enable plants to absorb nitrogen from their roots.

Ideally the layer directly beneath the surface will be humus rich topsoil. The quality of this topsoil will depend on the amount of organic material available near the surface and the activity of the recycling organisms. So if there is enough of organic matter and organisms, the soil there must be healthy and fertile.

But what do we actually do near our house..?

We don’t want the fallen leaves near our residence. So we either burn the leaves or do not allow the plants to grow there. Burning the garden leaves not only pollute the air & remove the moisture from soil, but it disrupt the soil biology also. We also want our surrounding to be clean and free of dirt. So we cover the soil with garden tiles.  And then, as per our eco-friendly gesture (???), we have no other option but to plant in pots or containers, & to buy the fertile soil from nurseries. If one really want to see how ‘eco-friendly’ this act is, then he/she should visit the site from which the nursery soil comes. The more effective, worthy, easy and cheaper way will be to protect & impregnate the soil we have..!

How?

One of the ways to achive this is by planting native trees on the ground soil and not in the garden pots. Composting and Mulching (the application of organic or inorganic material such as plant debris, compost, etc.) help to slow down the surface run-off, improves the soil moisture, reduces evaporation losses and improves soil fertility.

A coastal rainforest provides almost ideal conditions for the creation of richly fertile topsoil. With increased temperatures and humidity an abundance of organic material reaching the ground begins to decompose almost immediately. It is then broken down by organisms which thrive under the conditions. The entire process is accelerated resulting in a generous layer of finely blended topsoil.

From the perspective of the organic grower, good soil structures need to be protected. This can be achieved by minimizing digging, replacing disrupted layers in their correct order when necessary and renewing surface layers by providing a supply of organic material such as compost and manure. The addition of organic material will improve the water and nutrient holding ability of the soil.

Our future depends on the soil beneath us. In some countries, particularly like United States and Netherlands, soils are believed to be worthy of conservation. Both of these countries have specific legislation to protect soils and the Dutch express this by saying that we should regard ourselves as “guests in our environment, not masters of it”. Soils are far more important to human and environmental well-being than we often give them credit for. Just because they are out of sight, they should not be out of mind!

Our Ecosystems : Water

When pure, it is odorless and tasteless. It is the only substance that is found naturally in all three states. It's in your body, the food you eat and the beverages you drink. You use it to clean yourself, your clothes, your dishes, your car and everything else around you. Many of the products that you use every day either contain it or were manufactured using it. All forms of life need it and if they don't get enough of it, they die. Political disputes have centered around it. In some places, it's treasured and incredibly difficult to get. In others, it's incredibly easy to get and then wasted. It is an essential element to life on Earth. Our Blue planet's most of the surface is covered with lots of it.

Water... We have plenty of it. What if I tell you that we have limited water on our planet like petroleum. I shall thought to be a nut. But the fact is, Earth has less water than you think!

More than 97% of the water on the Earth is salt water. Remaining is categorized as fresh water; about 70% of which is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining unfrozen freshwater is found mainly as groundwater, with only a small fraction present above ground or in the air.

If you were to take all of the water on Earth - all of the fresh water, sea water, ground water, water vapour and water inside our bodies.. take all of it and somehow collect it into a single, giant sphere of liquid, how big do you think it would be?


According to the US Geological Survey, it would make a ball 1,400 km in diameter. That’s it. And this takes into consideration all the Earth’s water… even the stuff humans can’t drink or directly access, like salt water, water vapour in the atmosphere and the water locked up in the ice caps. If you were to take into consideration only the fresh water on Earth which accessible to humans, you’d get a much smaller sphere of about 56 km across..!

So there is small fraction of water, and we need water for almost everything we do. Agricultural, industrial, household, recreational, environmental activities etc...virtually all of these human uses require fresh water.

Thanks to rain, fresh water is a renewable resource. Yet the world's supply of clean, fresh water is steadily decreasing. Water demand already exceeds supply in many parts of the world and as the world population continues to rise, so does the water demand too.

Day-by-day demand keeps growing, further draining water sources, from great rivers to underground aquifers. We are going deeper & deeper into soil for groundwater, and that has very significant impacts for global water security. Groundwater resources have been heavily over-used worldwide. The rate of groundwater depletion has doubled in last 4 decades. Still we are pumping many of the aquifers out faster than they are recharged. Somehow, we need to bring withdrawals into balance with recharge.

Summer comes to India every year. Along with it comes water crisis. As our rivers start running dry a way before summer, Water is becoming a cause for social conflicts. Recently you might have noticed a survey in newspaper & media showing global water shortages that will be particularly felt in India and China. Rainfall patterns altered by climate change and worsened by inequity in the water distribution system has led to a water crisis in the Central India and many other parts. The poorest areas are being affected the most because of inequitable water distribution. If this isn't a wake-up call of what water scarcity can do to a society, may God bless us!

Is there any solution for these Water Wars..?

Rain, of course!

Water in rivers, lakes, ponds and wells, underground water, tap water & even bottled water..The source of all water is Rain.

Let us apply this understanding: in order to meet demand, then, what we actually need to do is harvest the rain. In India the monsoon is brief. We get about 100 hours of rain in a year. It is this 100-hour bounty that must be caught, stored and used over the 8,760 hours that make up a year.

But..

In urban areas, the construction of houses, societies, footpaths and roads has left very little exposed earth for water to seep in. In parts of the rural areas of India, floodwater quickly flows to the rivers, which then dry up soon after the rains stop. Furthermore, floodwater also cause erosion.

How to harvest Rain???

We have to catch water where it falls.

In the forests, water seeps gently into the ground due to roots of the trees. This groundwater in turn feeds wells, lakes, and rivers. Protecting forests means protecting water catchments. In ancient India, people believed (and the modern science has proved) that forests are the 'mothers' of rivers and must be worshipped the sources of these water bodies. Flora also prevent floods.

Planting of trees, grass and bushes breaks the force of rain and helps rainwater penetrate the soil. It slows down run-off and minimizes evaporation losses. Shelter belts of trees and bushes along the edge of agricultural fields can help water seep into the ground and recharge the groundwater supply. They also slow down the wind speed and reduce evaporation and erosion.

Implementation of Urban rain water harvesting systems has proved to be effective in recharging the aquifers. The CSE Water Campaign, when it looks into the future, sees only hope. From rain will come local food security. From rain will come biomass-wealth that will eradicate ecological poverty. From rain will come social harmony..!

Water is a precious resource, not a commodity. But we need to understand that every drop is important or someday, we will be forced to pay heavily for it...

World Environment Day!

One more Environment Day has gone. Few more events of tree plantation, some award functions for working for environment and few speeches by influential people about our degrading environment..that's it! So we have done our bit for nature and till next 5th June, we need not worry about our environment. This is all what the Environment Day mean to us. But actually, there is much more beyond that..!

Let us try something different this time... Go and trail round your neighborhood garden or forest and explore. This is the best time to see trees, loaded with fruits or pods; like Mango, NeemJava Plum, Indian Coral tree, Mahua etc. Identify and collect seeds from the many different trees that grow naturally in your area. You may plant few seeds. You may even stock up them for the next year.

Planting a tree seed is the smallest thing but possibly the grandest gesture you can do today..! It can be a pip from a Golden Apple, a samara from an Indian Rosewood or a winged seed from Drumstick tree. Monsoon is all set to arrive. The rain brings new life..especially for trees. This season, seeds are eager to sprout, dreaming to become a tree and trees tend to grow at higher speed.

All you have to do is make sure they are the seeds of trees that found naturally or native to the place in which you live. Your one single action gains significance as it grows.

Just remember and make sure that you plant it where it won't be causing problem for anyone in future. After all, in a few years we don't want someone cutting down what you have so carefully sown all those years ago. Planting near your home, on a private land or alongside of the roads might be fair enough.

Doing small things can achieve big things. The very seed you planted in the soil is proof of that. A living example of how from small things even greater things emerge and grow..! :)

Each one of us has a place and a role to play in the incredible web of life and each one of us can make a difference.

Let this be the idea, the thought, perhaps the hope that you can do something for environment..and for ourselves. That you can help to maintain our ecosystem. An ecosystem is not made up only of living components like animals, plants, microbes etc, but also of non-living components like water, soil, sun-light, atmosphere etc; respectively known as Biotic and Abiotic components. Our next few posts will be dedicated to understanding the inter-relation of these abiotic factors with the biotic ones. It will be one more step to know the ecosystem we live in, better.

We TWO!

In the soaring heat of May, we are experiencing a cool breeze. How? Yes, here are we again..celebrating Gifting Trees...'s second anniversary.

Marking the two years of Gifting Trees, we are adding a new segment in conserving native trees... Tree Rescue!


This is the status of our sacred native trees, isn't it? WE all, educated illiterates (पढ़ेलिखे गवार, साक्षर अनाडी) are busy in widening our highways, we are moving to big cities. And so we are cutting these trees which were planted by our forefathers. But we can't see the importance of our sacred native trees. May be hence we are habituated to plant introduced trees. But Mother Nature haven't..! She knows what's right and what's wrong. She keeps trying to plant these sacred trees with the help of birds.

But do we allow to grow trees on our walls or midway on the roads? No, we cut them. But there is another way to have these blessings of Mother Nature. We just have to transplant these saplings to a right place where the sapling can take roots freely and flourish. For example, Banyan, Peepal, Cluster Figs are species which can be seen growing on walls, buildings. Eventually either the growing saplings die due to lack of water/space or are cut/removed by humans for obvious reason. What we can do is just to transplant them carefully alongside of roads, near residential area or near a temple.

Similarly at the end of summer or just in the beginning of rains, trees like Neem, Jamun, Pongam, Ber etc have numerous seedlings grown beneath them due to their fallen fruits/seeds. Practically, it is very difficult to survive & grow under a big tree and its not advisable to just let these seedlings grow, especially in urban areas. These seedlings can easily be transferred to polybags to grow and then can be used for plantation.

We two, my father and me, have rescued about 45 saplings/seedlings till date and successfully planted few of them too! Also as today is our 2nd anniversary, we are pleased to announce that in this last year, we have planted (and grown) 18 saplings and taken care of them along with those of the previously planted.

5th May also is the Climate Impacts Day. Is that a co-incidence?! Lets Come together and Connect the dots.