Students of the University of Pune’s welfare department have decided that the National Service Scheme students will plant trees in the hilly regions in and around Nashik, Ahmednagar and Pune.
The decision comes in the wake of the Malin tragedy, in which an entire village was reduced to a mass of mud and hundreds lost their lives. Experts say that one of the causes for the tragedy is that there were not enough trees on the hill slopes to hold the soil and therefore the heavy rains led to the landslide.
“Malin was an unfortunate incidence which can happen in other hilly areas too. Planting more trees on the slopes will help retain the top soil as the roots hold the soil together, thus helping prevent landslides. That is why we decided to ask our NSS unit to plant trees in their area,” said Pandit Shelke, Director, Board of Students Welfare.
The varsity has a 45, 000 strong team of NSS students of which almost 50 per cent are girl students. Almost every college affiliated to the university has an NSS unit. “The NSS units adopt a village throughout a year and do various activities for its development. There are almost 353 villages which have been adopted by these student units. These activities do include tree plantation in the village but this time we have asked the units to identify hills in the areas near the adopted village and plant trees on them,” said Shelke.
The students will also be designing a sustainable way to keep the saplings from withering due to neglect. “First of all, such trees will be planted that requires less maintenance. Then trees that require less water and are local to an area will be preferred as it is not possible for the students to continuously monitor the growth of the saplings. Hence, we will include the villagers in the entire plan. Trees like neem, peepal and others will be planted and awareness about its use will be spread among the villagers so that they take it upon themselves to look after the saplings,” said Shelke.
The students go and spend seven days in a camp compulsorily in the adopted villages. This is done from October to January. Apart from this yearly camp, the students visit the villages a number of times to carry out various drives and awareness programmes.
Talking about making the tree plantation a competition, Shelke said, “At present we are not giving any incentive. But this will be put in front of the internal committee in the varsity because incentives will encourage students to plant more trees.” He added, “We are not claiming to plant two lakh trees or something, but our endeavour will be to plant as many as we can and make sure they grow well.”