Tree Revival Campaign: Wadala Edition

"As we progress, most of us have a tendency of forgetting the older and sometimes crucial necessities of life. One of the things we have forgotten is the trees that have been there since forever in our neighbourhoods. It's time we rediscover the trees around us," said Father Savio Silveira as he kicked off the latest Tree Revival campaign workshop on 27th September.

Around a hundred students from six schools close to Five Gardens had gathered at St. Joseph's High School  for the Wadala edition of the Tree Revival Campaign conducted by Ekonnect and GreenLine. We were also joined by college students from the Rotaract Club of Ruia, who pitched in as volunteers, and Julius Rego with his team from Green Souls. And of course, there were the tree experts who would go along with the students to map the trees they saw.  Father Savio also talked about the trees in our surroundings and how we usually take them for granted. He talked about how it's important to learn about the trees that grow in our neighbourhood, and about the biodiversity they support. Father Bernard, principal of St. Joseph's High School Wadala then told the students they were here as "torchbearers of change". Resident tree expert Katie Bagli then took the stage to tell the students about the rare trees found in Five Gardens (which happens to be her home ground!) and some lesser known facts about them. Everyone was all ears as Katie talked about the jewel box pods of the Guest Tree, whose seeds look strangely like pearls! Or the African native Sausage tree which is called so because of it's sausage-shaped fruits.

She also talked about Five Gardens through time, and about Mancherji Joshi - the man behind it's making.We felt a sense of pride for having so many trees rare to Mumbai growing just next door!

Aristo from the GreenLine team then gave everyone instructions about how to go about mapping the trees. He also divided the schools into teams, consisting of the students, a tree expert and two volunteers. Every team was given colour coded routes

The route for the tree mapping looked something like this:

No map of Middle Earth, but pretty cool huh?

To make things tricky and keep the students on their feet, we came up with a small game. Each team was named after a rare tree found in Five Gardens (sometimes exclusively!). The aim was for the team to find that particular tree on the route they were assigned. So for instance, the Amulakh school team was called Albizzia richardiana and they had to find their tree namesake (which was on the Red route) and click a group photo with it!
By now the students were raring to go out and start mapping the trees, everyone filed out of the hall and headed to their routes. The teams not only observed the trees but also looked for any forms of biodiversity they could find on them...whether birds, insects or anything else they could find moving about!

The roads were buzzing with activity as everyone moved towards Five Gardens, even people passing by stopped to ask what was going on!

The tree walk threw up a lot of surprises. The Shishuvan team was lucky to see a Common Emigrant butterfly laying eggs on one of the tree's leaves!
The Auxilium team got a glimpse of a Coppersmith Barbet on, no marks for guessing - a copper pod tree!
And most of the students saw hordes of noisy fruit bats roosting on the rain trees. Other than taking in all the sights and sounds, the teams also had the challenge of looking for their tree. Most of them managed to track them down. One hour flew by and everyone got back into the hall for well-deserved snacks.

The students from each team then came forward to tell us what they found while walking among the trees. The interesting thing was that apart from the trees, they also came across many other forms  of biodiversity.
Most of the teams brought back souvenirs they found under the trees, from leaves of different kinds to seed pods! Many said they realized for the first time that there were so many varieties of trees growing near them that they never knew about. The Amulakh team also noticed some Rain Trees with cages around the trunks, that weren't supposed to be there and decided they should do something about it.
There was an on-the-spot quiz contest of sorts. The budding botanists also threw and fielded questions at each other, like why is a Samudra Sheng called a Samudra Sheng?"

Julius Rego from the Green Souls team then came up and said that this was "a means to an end". He then showed us how easy it is to make green spaces where we stay, like our window grills, and grow plants in easy-to-get plastic jars and bottles. He showed us some 'kaddi patta' plants and 'Jamaican Blue Spike' plants that he grew in plastic jars. Incidentally these plants are also Butterfly-attractants too! Everyone was spellbound as he picked up a Common Mormon Caterpillar that was found crawling around on the kaddi patta plant!

Father Savio then concluded the programme by thanking everyone who participated and also reminded us that this was just the start. He also reminded us to look more closely at the trees right next to us and making space for more green in our neighbourhoods.

- Jessica Luis,
GreenLine Team

Father Savio flagging off the Tree Revival Campaign with Katie Bagli, Father Bernard of St. Joseph's HIgh School and Sonal Alvares from Ekonnect

The tree experts and volunteers!

Team Albizzia richardiana: The students of Amulakh School Wadala take notes furiously as tree expert HUtokshi Rustomfram shows them around

The teams at work!

Spotting the Common Emigrant laying eggs!

The St. Joseph's students measuring the tree girth like pros!

The students back from the tree walk tell us what they've found!

Team Lagerstroemia speciosa: The students of St. Joseph's High School under their tree with the volunteers and tree expert Vishal Rasal. They found their tree bang in the middle of Garden Number 3!

Julius Rego talking about greening the spaces you can find, and how he's planted saplings in plastic jars and urban farms.  Here he shows us a Common Emigrant caterpillar that was sitting on a  kadi patta plant he planted!

Team Berrya cordifolia: The Auxilium students with the volunteers and tree expert Katie Bagli near the tree. Two of these rare trees are found in Mumbai, outside the agiary near Five Gardens

Team Sausage Tree: The Don Bosco students with tree expert Anil Rajbhar
finally find their tree!

Katie Bagli talking about the trees found (sometimes exclusively!) in Five Gardens

Team Persian Lilac: Students from DPYA with their tree experts Nita Shashidharan and Devyani Singh

Team Ebony: The Shishuvan students with tree expert Julius Rego

Those tiny shapes hanging from the branches are infact, Fruit Bats! The students came across large colonies roosting on the Rain Trees at Five Gardens 


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