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Shifting Landscapes

There’s an evolving green sensibility in the city

October 11, 2013 2:13:31 am

Have you noticed the profusion of cosmos,the yellow wildflower that blossoms around the city at this time of the year? There’s a sweet story behind it,says a conservationist friend of mine. The proprietor of one of Pune’s prominent nurseries went out of his way to sprinkle cosmos seeds in the surrounding ghats several years ago,correctly guessing that its seasonal beauty would pleasure road trippers for decades to come.

But the magic beans proliferated and took over the hillsides,driving out other species and earning the dreaded status of a weed. Pune-based ecological consultancy,Oikos,is planning to deal with the cosmos invasion,which may be read as good or bad news,depending on whether you think a pretty flower should be called a weed just because it’s a bit of a bully.

What’s assuredly good news,though,is that the Pune Tree Fest was concluded successfully last week. The fest — a joint venture between several eco-sensitive groups — was buzzing with activities such as guided tree walks,skits,exhibitions and poetry-reading sessions,to raise awareness.

I once witnessed a dramatic poetry recital by a couple of Goan artistes on the theme of environmental damage — something that’s become topical in the sunny state plagued by illegal mining. Who knew that free verse could be so effectively tailored to such ends?

Where sermons and pamphlets fail to make a mark,stage performances punch you in the head with an air of immediacy. Watching a motivated performer sing or recite ballads about the death of Mother Nature is like pressing an open wound. Everybody should do it.

Tree planting is one aspect that environmental festivals stress upon. Tree counting is another one,and equally as important. Did you know it that it takes 8-10 minutes to record a single tree during the tree census? First,they write down botanical features of the tree,then photograph it,and finally capture its GPS location. I am surprised the authorities have not yet trained giant snails to perform this task for them at its current pace.

Fortunately,someone has come up with an improvement. Smart Survey’s tree census app does the job in less than two minutes,using GIS,GPS and other new-fangled technologies that are finally being used for something more than launching projectiles at zombies and pigs. Mapping,tracking and identification — the works. It’s a paperless exercise,which makes sense considering the context.

The app has already taken off on a pilot project in Sambhaji Park and a few other areas. One can only guess if Pune Municipal Corporation will eventually digitise its entire tree census operation. In this age of alternative options — ranging from hi-tech tablets to animal-dung paper — it would be quite ironic to continue recording the existence of living trees on the remains of those cut down.

While the powers that be are left to make these monumental decisions,we commoners can return to admiring fluid landscapes of the seasons. One could go on a long drive to Mulshi and look at the cosmos flowers if one hasn’t already. They may not be there forever.

Kruttika Nadig is a chess grandmaster and former national champion

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