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Nurturer of an Urban Forest: Meet the Greenman Viral Desai

Updated on: 30 March,2023 05:54 PM IST  |  Mumbai
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In recent years the terms urban forest and Miyawaki forest have become extremely popular. Miyawaki tree plantation techniques was the key point of discussions in seminars and presentations by everyone  involved in tree plantation.

Nurturer of an Urban Forest: Meet the Greenman Viral Desai

Greenman Viral Desai

However, there is no discussion about how difficult urban forests are to preserve or how much care and maintenance is required for urban forests prepared by the Miyawaki method. That's why we met a person who has created three Miyawaki urban forests so far and has worked tirelessly to preserve maintain those urban forests.

That person is Greenman Viral Desai, who has received several awards from the Government of Gujarat, Government of India and international forums for environmental protection and energy conservation. The Shahid Smriti Van he prepared at the Udhna railway station in Surat is the first urban forest of Indian railways. The urban forest has been created in an industrial area in middle of the city. Along with providing good air quality, the urban forest has become a home to many different species of birds, reptiles, butterflies and insects. In this way, we can say that Shahid Smriti Van Udhna has contributed a lot to ecosystem restoration of the entire area.

When we asked him about his project, Viral Desai informed, 'We launched this urban forest in December 2019. But today after three and a half years, If someone visits there, no one will be ready to believe that this urban forest is just three and a half year old. One would think this urban forest ten years old!'

We also learned from Viral Desai that about 1500 trees of native species have been planted in an area of 19000 square feet in Shahid Smriti Van. Utmost care has been taken in the selection of trees,  most of the trees are native and fruit bearing, so that more birds can come to the urban forest. However, launching an urban forest and maintaining an urban forest comes with an altogether different challenge. After all this is not about preservation of one or a few trees. So it is natural that huge efforts will have to be given to maintain the forest.

When we asked Viral Desai about this, he said, 'Conserving an urban forest is as challenging as raising a child. For this you have to be constantly alert and take care of the trees every day, every week, every month until they become independent and survive on their own. In that one has to take care whether the trees get proper nutrients and water as per the regular requirement or not, the ideal moisture level in the soil is maintained, check whether the trees do not get any pests or whether the trees planted very close to each other are developing properly or not.

Viral Desai further adds that 'What I mentioned above was the technical aspects of forest care. There are many other challenges and issues that come all of a sudden, which you have not even imagined. If I talk about our Shahid Smriti Van, after a year an half the forest faced a very extreme fire due to someone's mischief of bursting crackers in the forest. Due to which a fire broke out and as many as four hundred trees were burnt in the blink of an eye. As if this was less, the next year there was a cyclone attack in which some of our trees got uprooted. After these two challenges, we were left with no other option but replacing the trees in extreme conditions and nursing the partially damaged ones.

We could see the corners of Viral Desai's eyes moisten while saying this. However, regaining his composure at the next moment, he said, 'But today a visitor of Shahid Smriti Van Udhna cannot spot the difference in between the trees replaced in this forest and the rest. We take so much care of our trees that all the trees look the same size and very matured.'

It is worth mentioning that migratory birds are also seen in winter at Shahid Smriti forest in Udhna. If you go to a forest in summer, there is a difference of seven to eight degrees between the outside temperature and the inside temperature. Even three years after the launch of the Urban Forest, Viral Desai has created and added something new here year by year. Where recently in February 2023 he has prepared a small fish pond  inside the forest. On the outside of the urban forest, he has prepared a model of the India Gate, RPF jawan statue, Shahid Smriti memorial and a huge  Indian army silhouette protecting the national flag. It was inaugurated by MP C. R. Patil.

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