Published: 19th July 2021
This Puducherry college principal turned barren college campus into a lush green mini-forest. Here's how
He never gave up on planting trees, starting with basil and neem. He would come to the college early in the morning for planting trees and a cattle guard was installed on the gates
Tagore Arts College at Lawspet, which was once a barren land with a few bushes, now boasts of a verdant green campus where trees, vegetables, fruits, flowers, birds and butterflies as well as animals like rabbits and ducks greet visitors.
The architect of this change is college principal Sasikanta Dash, who has turned the 15-acre campus into a mini forest with close to 3,000 trees, including fruit-bearing species, creepers, vegetables and native flowering plants. The change has happened in a span of four years and there are also pits to store rainwater.
It all began when he was posted as principal of the government college in 2017. “The place was gloomy. There was just a large barren land with shrubs and beer bottles thrown around. There was no atmosphere for education. Outside the classroom, students had no sitting places and used to take their lunch sitting on the road. I wanted to change the environment. I believe every campus must have its share of greenery to provide a pleasant learning environment for students”, said Dash.
Using his experience gained while serving as Assistant Professor of Government College, Bomdilla in Arunachal Pradesh, and his growing up days in Odisha, he started out by planting saplings bought from nurseries. There were difficulties in watering the plants as the college did not have even a gardener. Cows were roaming everywhere and there was resistance from local people who would pull out the planted saplings, says Dash.
But his patience reaped dividends. He never gave up on planting trees, starting with basil and neem. He would come to the college early in the morning for planting trees and a cattle guard was installed on the gates. Water was purchased through tankers from municipality with his own funds and manure was arranged. He googled topics related to growing plants and used the knowledge effectively to grow the trees.
His enthusiasm rubbed off on others and gradually, like-minded staff got motivated and started joining him in planting trees and caring for them. They planed trees on the birthdays of their near and dear ones, important occasions like Independence Day, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and others. Everyone started spending a few hours in the garden before the start of college. After one and a half years, planting of fruit trees and vegetable plants was taken up. While some were sourced locally, others were brought in from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and his native Odisha.
The garden now has several trees including 10 banyans, almost all types of fruits and vegetables and even berries and Ashwagandha. There are small pools for the birds that have arrived now that the trees have grown. The campus also has a 60×45 ft pit with a capacity to store 1.2 million litres of water. Even apiculture is done here. The vegetables and fruits are provided to the college canteen, staff and students while some are left behind in the plants to attract the birds.
The students now sit under trees or take walks amid the serene mini-forest. Sasikanta Dash has ambitious plans to undertake greening in 10 villages by involving the students of those villages and getting the support of villagers.