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Taking Back Concrete Jungles with Miyawaki Forests

In the past, afforestation was largely a means to generate income from timber and other products. Today, it is integral to our survival. Loss in green cover and increased concretisation in urban areas have led to cities becoming urban heat islands, which pose significant threats to not just human populations but also contribute to global climate change.

In countries like India that are highly vulnerable to climate breakdown, forests are an integral element of mitigation. Tree cover of almost 1.6 million hectares was lost between 2001 and 2018 in India. This is nearly four times the geographical area of Goa, says a study released by the World Resources Institute.

In contrast, growing forests has numerous benefits.

Forests remove vast amounts of carbon from the air and store it in leaves, branches, trunks, roots, and dirt. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Tropical forests alone store one-quarter of a trillion tons of carbon. Older trees store more carbon, while younger trees remove, or sequester, more of it.

Forests cool the air and generate oxygen. Plus they clean our waters and regulate precipitation and wind. They also house 80% of our terrestrial biodiversity, reduce soil erosion, halt desertification, and lessen the impacts of floods.

However, with rapid deforestation, it is crucial to growing trees equally fast. So many communities and individuals are adopting the Miyawaki method of afforestation.

What is the Miyawaki method?

Named after Japanese botanist and plant ecologist, Akira Miyawaki, this method grows dense urban forests on small patches of land. He pioneered this technique and what makes it unique is that these forests grow much more quickly compared to a conventional forest that may take over 100 years.

Largely driven by education, Miyawaki was also influenced by the sacred forests surrounding Japanese Shinto shrines and cemeteries, home to a variety of indigenous plants, that played a key role in his studies. Armed with these findings and his expertise, he developed his signature method of planting forests.

In this method, native varieties of trees like Jamun, mahogany, amla, papaya and more are grown in a small patch of land. They are spaced out in a multi-layer fashion that allows the roots to grow faster. Saplings should be planted, maintaining an approximate 60-centimetre distance between them and should have bamboo sticks tied to them so they remain upright.

Once everything has been planted, make sure to water the patch every day.
Reclaiming forests from cities

With proof that Bengaluru has seen a 925% increase in the concrete area, lost 78% of its vegetation and depleted 79% of water bodies, Miyawaki forests seem to be a viable solution. It will not only help to green the city but also reverse the damages caused by climate change.

Pehel Foundation, the CSR wing of PNB Housing began working along with BharatCares to re-green the city. The duo involved SayTrees, a social enterprise focussed on increasing the tree cover across India through the Miyawaki method.

In a small plot of land at Anekal, Bengaluru, the team is growing 6300 saplings. They are native varieties like papaya, guava, seethaphal, jasmine, badam and more. What started as small saplings not more than 2 feet tall, today, the saplings are adult trees that are 6-7 feet tall. In the same manner, the project is also being carried out in Narela, New Delhi.

The forest provides cleaner air and job opportunities. Even on a sunny day, the houses surrounding the Miyawaki forest are prone to receive more shade and cooler air. For maintaining the plantation site, workers are currently being appointed from the surrounding villages.

These forests attract biodiversity, including insects and new plant species. Further, they contribute to carbon sequestration and help cities adapt to rising temperatures.


Roshini Muthukumar

Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.