Do you think a community should care about its tree canopy? The residents of Nallappa Street in Nehru Nagar, Chromepet would say yes, without a second thought. This street, off the bustling Rajendra Prasad Road, resembles a dense urban forest with trees, small and big, lining both sides of the street.
The greening drive at Nallappa Street started over 11 years ago in 2008. Says Sreedhar Mahadevan, then secretary of Nallappa Street Residents Welfare Association, The Association was formed in 2005 to highlight civic issues in the street and the first five years were spent in getting the basic amenities such as street lights and drainage channels. On January 25, 2008, we kick-started the tree planting drive. The cost of saplings and tree guards was met by a private hospital in Chromepet.
Here are some of the tree species planted by the residents: pungan (Indian beech), neem, malai vembu (Malabar neem) magizham (bulletwood), senbagam (Magnolia champaca), sarakondrai (golden shower tree), vengai (Indian kino), vagai (Albizia lebbeck), neer maruthu (Arjun tree), panneer pushpam (Beach Gardenia), red sandal, athi (Indian fig), naaval (Malabar plum), sappotta, and poovarasu (Indian tulip). At the spots where overhead electric cables and poles were installed, the residents planted flowering trees such as arali (Nerium), nandiyavattai (Moonbeam flower), jasmine, manjarali (tecoma stans) and fruit-bearing ones like pomegranate and guava, so that the tree branches do not disturb the cables.
Sreedhar recalls watering the saplings with a small tank mounted atop his Maruti 800. We planted close to 100 saplings and every morning, I would just place the water tank on the car and water the saplings with the hose attached to the tank. The Association took all-out efforts to maintain the saplings and 11 years later, we have created a green canopy. The branches are pruned periodically, he adds.
When Cyclone Vardah hit in December 2016, Chennai lost a significant amount of trees, but the damage was only a bare minimum at Nallappa Street. The majority of trees withstood the gusty winds and we planted new saplings in place of the ones we lost in the cyclone, he adds.
Needless to say, there is a refreshing coolness here during the scorching summer heat. For the residents, these trees top the list of the best infrastructure investments they have made. Each resident can make an impact by planting trees and maintaining them in their neck of the woods. It is a low-cost but meaningful investment, says Sreedhar.