Monalisa Das | The News Minute | March 20, 2015 | 05:15 pm IST
With the pace in development growing by the day, cities are slowly turning into concrete blocks. One young Indian is working towards growing forests, and space hardly seems to be of concern.
Twenty-nine-year-old Shubhendu Sharma plants forests for a living. An eco-entrepreneur, Sharma is the founder of Bengaluru-based for profit social enterprise Afforestt.
A TED fellow, Sharma was recently conferred the Namma Bengaluru Awards in the Citizen Youth Category.
Be it a piece of land in your backyard or a factory garden or the dividers on the road, according to Sharma, trees can be grown even on barren land with the right method.
The minimum area to grow a forest is 1000 sq. feet. â€œThatâ€™s the space taken to park six cars,â€ Sharma tells The News Minute. His organisation aims at creating more such multi-layer, self-sustaining primitive forests.
Sharma however is of the view that manicured lawns are a â€œburdenâ€. He says, â€œThey consume a lot of water and require regular maintenance,â€ without contributing much to the environment.
He goes on to describe the stretch-after-stretch of land with cut grass on the way to the Bengaluru International Airport. â€œOne can see hundreds of acres of manicured land which need generous funds to be maintained. Why canâ€™t we have a forests instead? Sharma asks.
â€œA hundred acre land has the potential to have as many as 12 lakh trees. It will also have a tremendous environmental impact,â€ he says.
Born and brought up in Uttarakhand, Sharma joined Toyota as an Industrial Engineer soon after he graduated.
In 2008, Japanese forester Akira Miyawaki had come to the Toyota campus Sharma was working in to plant a forest. Miyawakiâ€™s technique caught Sharmaâ€™s attention to the extent that he decided to volunteer with him.
â€œI then grew a forest in the backyard of our home which was a success.â€
Soon, he quit his cushy job and started Afforestt.
Sharma has a team of six people working from Bengaluru. The Afforestt team follows two methods of working. In the first method, they handle everything from planning to execution of the forest. In the second way they provide consultation services.
â€œWe share our methodology with our clientele so that we do not have to be directly present everywhere. And even if the company ceases to exist tomorrow, the seeds we planted will continue to grow,â€ says Sharma.
Well aware that â€œthere is no industryâ€ for this kind of venture in the country at present, Sharma feels that his organisationâ€™s major accomplishment has been to survive and sustain the initial four years.
Their clientele is growing now and they hope the market for their work will eventually improve.
â€œSince its inception,â€ Sharma says, â€œWe have planted 60,000 trees or 48 forests in 13 different cities in India.
Can afforestation go hand-in-hand with development projects? â€œAbsolutely possibleâ€, Sharma is quick to add.
From being an engineer with a top automobile firm to migrating into unconventional and unchartered territory, Sharma has made significant achievements pretty early in life.
â€œI donâ€™t think 29 is young,â€ Sharma says.
The journey, and so does the learning, continue. â€œI am having a good time. My work has taken me to places. It has allowed me to explore the very interiors of our country,â€ he says.
Sharma shared an incident where he once met Chipko movement leader Sunderlal Bahuguna, who told him â€œTo do good things, you donâ€™t need to wait for anyone (to help you). Just go out and do it.â€ The advice, he says, is one of the best he has received.
â€œWhat others opine doesnâ€™t matter to me. I donâ€™t need an approval from the society. What matters to me is my work and whether I am creating any tangible results.â€
As for the award, Sharma says, â€œIt is a great feeling to have won the award. It is a recognition for all the people who we do not read about in the papers but who have worked hard to make Afforestt a success.â€
( All images Source: Afforestt/Facebook )