“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

Climate change is what everybody talks about today, but it takes more than just talking to address this issue. Together, we need to put in years of effort and get our hands dirty, so that the air is cleaner and the environment greener. In today’s times, when smog is the buzzword, there are still some places where fog uplifts your mood for the day – beautiful, mysterious and just right for you to walk or jog in.

In 2011, the Karnataka Forest Department launched the tree park and daivy-vana projects to create and /or develop lung spaces across Karnataka. No, don’t be alarmed by the word “develop” – in this case, the word attributes to an increase of green cover.

This study and article have been taken up as part of Karnataka Forest Department’s project of documenting tree parks and daivy-vanas.

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What was more delightful, we don’t know – the joy of photographing these children amidst the greenery, or the look on their faces. Location: Bullapura Tree Park, Bhadravati.

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Developed on the lake bed of Akka Tangi Kere, this picturesque tree park provides a much-needed lung space for the citizens of Tumakuru (Tumkur).

The main goal of the tree park project is to educate the public about different species of trees and their significance in nature as well as in our lives. Tree parks also provide an additional protection from encroachment. Some of these parks have been created in areas that were previously encroached; some were dumping grounds while others were hangouts for anti-social elements. For obvious reasons, people kept a safe distance from these patches of land. 

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A Banyan tree stands tall welcoming visitors to the Bhootnal Kere Tree Park, Vijayapura (Bijapur). Many ficus species are being planted in all tree parks.

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Residents are proudly associated with ‘Lingambudhi Kere Sasyodyana’ and help in maintaining this walkers’ and joggers’ paradise in Mysuru (Mysore). The lake was constructed in the 1800s and had been a source of water supply to the city.

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There is peace and tranquility in anything natural, like this view from atop the hill at Karivaradarajaswamy Betta Vriksha Vana, Chamarajnagar.

Along with providing protection to the existing trees in the parks, several indigenous saplings have been planted. While one can still see relics – plantations of Eucalyptus spp. or Acacia spp., it is very heartening to see so many native species that attract birds, insects and mammals.

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222 Western Ghats’ species have been planted at Siddapura Tree Park – this plantation provides a glimpse into the nature of the work under the aegis of KFD’s tree park project.

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A termite hill in an enclosure of green at Yelawala Tree Park near Aloka Palace, Mysuru (Mysore).

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Left: About 100 varieties of plants from different climatic zones were raised and planted during the 1980s at Kalkere Research Center, Bengaluru (Bangalore).

Right: A resplendent mix of red and green, with this Spathodea campanulata in bloom at Anagodu Block ‘A’ Tree Park, Davanagere.

At the risk of sounding old, ask anyone of our generation or earlier, and everyone would fondly remember playing ‘mara koti’, a game which literally translates to ‘tree monkey’. Playtime always had at least one tree as a part of the playing group – the tree would either support a tyre, or sometimes just a rope was enough for us to swing on! These parks bring trees back into kids’ lives. With low rope adventure courses, children have the opportunity to explore their adventurous side.

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Low rope adventure games are very popular with children, like these kids who were twisting and turning at Bhootnal Kere Tree Park, Vijayapura (Bijapur).

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After a couple of hours of intense play, running up and down the hill, and balancing on rope walks, this boy wanted a break. But the break also had to be inside a play-set, at Karivaradarajaswamy Betta Vriksha Vana, Chamarajnagar.

It is not just all play either. Information Centers being set up enable visitors to learn more about nature, climate change, and the importance of trees and wildlife. The chance to look at seeds, feel them and understand how they germinate, gives that much-needed hands-on approach for children. Some of the locals, along with the forest department, have started conducting nature walks for children from local government schools. With binoculars in hand, bird watching is also starting in some of these tree parks. Some of the Village Forest Committees (VFCs) are playing an active role in such activities.

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Information boards at Raichur Tree Park. Many tree parks have such boards, with information regarding trees, birds, medicinal plants, and even interesting Kannada proverbs about nature.

 

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The information center at Bullapura tree park, Bhadravati, had a diverse collection of seeds, with every box neatly labelled, enough to inspire you to start your own collection!

Everywhere and every time we asked people what fauna they normally saw in the park, pat came the reply, “navilu” (peacock). True to that, we saw our national bird in almost every tree park. In one of the parks, we recorded nearly thirty five species of birds within an hour’s walk! They were absolutely tolerant of people around – what a joy it was, being amidst them. Butterflies fluttering around, langurs jumping from tree to tree, snails mating, geckos and pupae displaying near-perfect camouflage, frogs disappearing amidst the grass – each park had something new for us to observe and learn.

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A peacock presents a dazzling display to one of his potential mates at the Bengere – Tannirbhavi Tree Park, Mangaluru (Mangalore).

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An Oriental Magpie Robin ignores the ‘No Entry’ board. In the background, a little boy seems to be pointing his arrow at the bird; the scene is from Valmiki Vana, a set of statues from the Ramayana. Many parks have installations and /or statues, some depicting the local culture. Location: Gokak Tree Park.

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Sighting Malabar Pied Hornbills in hot and arid Haveri was a pleasant surprise. They are seen regularly in the Hardwickia binata plantation at Karjagi Tree Park, which is popularly known as Karadigudda.

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Early morning is the time to exercise for some, the time to laze for others. These langurs were totally at home at Karjagi Tree Park, Haveri.

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A Blue Tiger butterfly feeds on an Uttarani (in Kannada) Stachytarpheta sp. at Angodu Tree Park, Davangere.

But what was most encouraging to see was the camaraderie between local people and the Karnataka Forest Department. The department, in quite a few cases, has been engaging volunteers like those from NSS to help in regular cleaning and maintenance of the tree parks. In addition to this, local people themselves come forward to maintain *their* park. With a keen sense of pride and ownership, they care for the green space either by declaring it a no-plastic zone or even going to the extent of watering new saplings by fetching water from their homes!

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What can be better than sitting under the shade of a tree and enjoying a good book? Location: Athani Tree Park.

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Visitors relax and energize themselves every morning, with yoga tuned to the sounds of nature. Location: Gokak Tree Park.

For those of you who have adventure in your blood, hiking and trekking trails exist in some of these parks. Hike up, burn a few calories and enjoy your reward of a fantastic view. Whether in the city or on the highway, these parks take us into nature’s lap. There are 33 tree parks across the state, with more in the offing. Look out for your nearest tree park, wherever you are in Karnataka.

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A quaint little pond with a hillock in the background and a stone relic on the banks greets visitors at Adavimalli Nagara Vana, Chitradurga.

Map depicting tree parks of Karnataka