To commemorate Auroville’s 50th Anniversary, the Botanical Garden is giving 50 different trees to 50 schools in the surrounding bioregion. The project has already begun, and the trees selected are all between 5 and 6 years old already. ‘This is better than just giving saplings,’ explained Adhi Kesavan, one of the project leaders. ‘Giving them more established trees makes the schools aware of the benefit of afforestation immediately’. The project is focused on village schools which do not have any shade at the moment, and the trees provided are of 50 different varieties, flowering trees and fruit trees. This will bring an educational aspect to the project, as well as the practical benefit of shade from the sun. Students can learn to identify trees, their flowers and fruit, and over time they will witness the change in bio culture that afforestation brings about: trees attract butterflies, bees and a host of other insects; the insects attract birds. The fruits also attract birds and other animals. And of course, fruits can be eaten by the school children and staff as well!
This event has grown out of the Botanical Garden’s Environmental Education Centre, which has been working with government school children for the past 11 years. ‘It was not easy to get into the schools,’ Adhi explained. ‘The government won’t let just anyone into schools, so it took years of work with government officials and the schools themselves to get to the point we are at now. The government has very good environmental visions, but is really lacking in implementations skills. That is where we can help. Government schemes tend to be budget-driven, and may see trees being planted, but nothing is done to maintain the trees after that. Growing so many trees in the schools will allow a generation of Indian schoolchildren to grow up experiencing the benefits of afforestation. Children are at school for 12 years. They will feel it. They will grow into adults with that consciousness of the natural world.’
Regarding the watering and maintenance of the trees, the Botanical Garden team has been working closely with not just the schools, but also the local villages, government-supported self help groups and youth groups. ‘They will all share the responsibility of watering and caring for the trees. If there are no taps at the schools in question, these will be provided. On both a local and governmental level, everyone is involved. It is a shared experience, with shared responsibilities.’
The project has already begun. ‘Several schools did not have adequate fencing to protect the young trees from animals, so the first stage of proving fencing is already underway. Later this week, or early next week, we will begin planting the trees.’
Auroville’s mission in the world is to raise consciousness, and the natural world has always been a powerful tool in that endeavor, from the poetry of Wordsworth to the 21st century Environmentalist movement. The Botanical Garden’s 50 Trees for 50 Schools (well, actually 55 schools!) is a truly wonderful way to mark Auroville’s 50th birthday.