Volunteers from over 50 countries have joined forces to change a 70 acre arid land into a lush forest in Puducherry.
In a period of 11 years, more than 40 acres of the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest have been reclaimed, and with their water conservation efforts, the water table in the surrounding area has risen substantially too.
The wells in the neighbouring zones have finally watered up, thanks to the Sadhana Forest project run by Israeli-origin environmentalists Aviram (50) and Yorit Rozin (43). One visit to the community run inside the forest is all it takes for us to realize the precious wealth we happily squander – our beloved soil.
The first thing you’ll notice when you step inside Sadhana Forest are the plastic cola bottles. Only this time, instead of being strewn across the land, they are carefully poised with a wick to enable irrigation.
The forest is now buzzing with birds and insects of all kinds and the volunteers have planted 29,000 Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest plants of 160 different indigenous species, and are constantly mulching and caring for them.
Aviram, along with his family and a set of volunteers began planting trees, acre by acre. Slowly, the word spread and Sadhana Forest soon had eager volunteers swamping the place. The bigger challenge however was water conservation. They went around digging percolation ponds, building swales, bunds, earth dams and more to make do with available water resources.
Aviram reads a lot of books on the subject and maintains that it is a constant learning process. Every soil is different and the land itself is the best teacher.
At Sadhana Forest, everything from the food consumed and methods used to prepare to water consumption to the use and reuse of every kind of waste is approached with a deep consciousness of its effect on the environment as well as the community.
The best part of Sadhana Forest is not only do they store and recharge the water aquifer (ground water), they also ensure that they use as little water as possible. They have a small community of long term and short term volunteers who reside within the forest and every action they do here is inspiring, to the very least. These volunteers get up every day to work tirelessly for the land that is not theirs and whose fruits they’ll never reap. They just give their time and energy expecting nothing in return from nature or the local population.
It is not just the foreign volunteers, local people too have been very supportive of the project and Aviram vouches that they have a treasure trove of information on local plants and its uses.
He now hopes to go on a water conservation yatra across India, travel with local people, exchanging knowledge as they go. He also plans to work more with the local Tamil children. Nothing like catching them young, right?
The forest and its community is a beautiful success story that showcases how men from different races can come together to heal the earth where it is hurt the most.