Making a tree count with hashtag symbols
CHENNAI: Residents in the city have, over the past few days, been mystified at the sight on hashtag symbols on several trees. Like their counterparts in Bengaluru a few weeks ago, they too thought the trees identified by white markings were going to be chopped for infrastructure projects.
Soon, the mystery was resolved and it turned out that young volunteers of Bengaluru-based ‘Talking Earth’ were thus identifying the trees to map the green cover in the city, beginning the exercise in Saidapet. Asked why they were using the hashtag symbol, group founder Varun Hemachandran said they wanted everyone to be able to recognise it. They also wanted to make it a fun activity for volunteers and members of civil society groups who wished to help.
“After we realised the devastation that cyclone Vardah had caused, we decided to start mapping trees within the city limits here too,” said Hemachandran. They planned to extend the mapping exercise to cover six cities, including Delhi, he added.
The aim in all the cities is to record every tree and use the data to manage green cover at ward-levels, plant more trees and discover more planting sites, he said. “While Bengaluru has a lot of unwanted exotic species, Chennai has a higher ratio of native trees which is good,” said Hemachandran. “But all the trees we have mapped in urban areas are weakening because their roots can’t breathe due to concretisation.” Once the census hits the 2,000 mark, the group plans to launch a drive to plant trees.
Just a day ago, volunteers of Nizhal, an NGO, and officials of a private company had released a scientific inventory of trees in ward 176 using GIS technology. “People can go around their neighbourhood to help with tree mapping; they can decide which trees need pruning and take up their care,” Nizhal founder trustee Shobha Menon had said then to establish a collaborative effort between government and citizens to protect trees.
Talking Earth has about 40 volunteers and the data they have collected is available on https://www.opentreemap.org/map/ where other interested people can sign up.