About 15km from Mangaluru, Vamanjoor has long been infamous as the dumping ground for the city’s garbage. Mountains of trash emitting an unbearable stench cover 28.32 hectares of the landfill, long seen as an eyesore in the otherwise beautiful coastal landscape.
However, an environmentalist and entrepreneur from the city, Jeeth Milan Roche, has taken on the task of transforming the area, and making living in the vicinity of the landfill bearable. His solution – planting over 1,500 saplings in the landfill.
Jeeth talking of the initiative carried out between July and August this year, said:
The general consensus was that planting saplings in a landfill would not work as the depth of the soil is just 3ft-4ft, and because of the presence of methane gas. However, we planted saplings belonging to the ficus species as they can survive in the worst climatic condition.
He and his team have planted banyan, ashwata and neem saplings in a 7-acre area of the landfill.
A thorough research of the soil and air was conducted before we went ahead and decided what saplings to plant in the area.
Roche took up the task in order to bring relief to the residents in the area, since the trees will help clear toxins in the air.
We created a Nagavana in an open space close to the landfill where we have planted many medicinal plants. We did this with the hope that medicinal plants would not be destroyed.
An organiser of cocktail parties for businessmen, Roche invests a significant part of his income to the cause of re-greening Mangaluru. He has planted over 50,000 saplings since he began working on this in 2004.
For three years after I started planting saplings, I had to invest money myself to buy the plants and equipment required to carry out a plantation drive. In 2008, the forest department recognised my work and since then they have been providing me with free saplings.
In July this year, he was involved in a drive that planted around 7,000 saplings in Adyapadi.
The land belonged to a private individual. He wanted half of his property to be converted into woods. We planted 45 different species of trees that are found exclusively in the Western Ghats there.
Roche’s dedication to the cause has also inspired the corporation to help him in his endeavours.
“In 2008, we realised that Jeeth had been doing a lot of good work in Mangaluru. So whenever he plans a plantation drive, the corporation helps him out. After December, the saplings in the landfill need to be watered and we will be helping him out there. Also we provide him with JCBs (earth movers) or manpower whenever he embarks on one of his plantation drives,” said Madhu SM, Environment Engineer, Mangalore City Corporation.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)