Raphi Ramanath and his Miyawaki Forest
Sarada Subhash, Research Assistant, VIF

A report published by The Hindu recently highlighted the efforts of Raphi Ramanath, a native of Kerala, who has created two gardens on the campus of his school, Vignjana Vilasini Higher Secondary School (VVHSS), Alappuzha, Kerala. Of these two gardens, one is a herbal park that nurtures over 150 medicinal plants and the other garden, which follows the Miyawaki planting technique, is home to almost 450 trees of 115 species. While the herbal park spreads over 25 cents, the garden that deploys the Miyawaki method covers 5 cents of the area. Ramanath, has aided in planting or has planted more than 1 lakh saplings in Alappuzha and various other parts of Kerala. Over the years, he has also assisted in creating butterfly gardens, fruit/herbal gardens and ‘nakshatra vanam’, planting trees that are named after ‘stars in the Malayalam calendar’ in many government offices, schools, etc. This biology teacher’s vision and goal is to further expand green cover and instill the values of the environment in ‘young minds’.

The Miyawaki technique is an afforestation method, which, using indigenous species of plants, creates multilayered and dense forests. The method was developed by the late Japanese plant ecologist and botanist Dr. Akira Miyawaki. The advantage of adopting the Miyawaki technique is that the plant growth is ten times faster and the forest developed is thirty times denser. Moreover, a forest can be developed through the Miyawaki technique in a span of 2-3 years, while the normally it may take at least 20 to 30 years. In the 102nd episode of the Mann ki Baat radio programme through which Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the people of Bharat (India), the PM lauded the green initiatives pursued by Raphi Ramanath. He said that the nature of Indians is such that we are ever ready to welcome new ideas. The Prime Minister added that we Indians ‘love our things and assimilate new things’ and cited the adaptation of Japan’s Miyawaki technique by Indians as an example. He explained that if the soil of an area is not fertile any longer, then the Miyawaki technique can be effectively deployed to make the region ‘green again’. The Prime Minister also noted that the Miyawaki forests spread quickly and in a span of 2-3 decades, they have the capability of becoming the hub of biodiversity. The PM observed how Raphi Ramanath was motivated by his initial success and created a mini forest. The forest is named Vidyavanam (vidya meaning knowledge). The maintenance of Vidyavanam is being carried out by Raphi Ramanath with the help of his students.

As elaborated by the PM the Miyawaki forest can be created anywhere – even in cities. He recalled inaugurating another Miyawaki-inspired forest – in Kevadia, Ekta Nagar in Gujarat. Likewise, ‘Smriti-Van’, a memorial for the 2001 earthquake victims, has been built in Gujarat’s Kutch district, using the same Miyawaki technique. The success of Miyawaki planting technique in a place like Kutch, a region known to have dry, arid and desert land, demonstrates how effective the method is even in the most difficult natural surroundings. Smritivan memorial is now home to the world’s largest Miyawaki Forest, with more than 3 lakh plants spread across the entirety of the memorial, to ‘create a living, breathing monument that also serves as the lungs for the city of Bhuj’, says the website of Gujarat tourism.

Similarly, trees have been planted in Ambaji and Pavagadh in Gujarat and a Miyawaki garden is being developed at Lucknow’s Aliganj in Uttar Pradesh, too. Besides, work has been done on over 60 such kinds of forests in Mumbai and surrounding regions in the last 4 years. Miyawaki technique is now lauded worldwide and it is being implemented in countries like Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.

The advocates of Miyawaki technique like Dr. Simone Webber regard it to be one of the most effective methods for a faster creation of forest cover on land that has been degraded during its use for the purpose of agriculture or construction. Tarun Gopalakrishnan of the Centre for Science & Environment opines that planting native or indigenous species, a key factor in the Miyawaki technique, makes them conducive to creating sustainable forests and such ecosystems are a very good way of sequestering carbon to face the climate challenge

Some environmentalists, while acknowledging Miyawaki forests have benefits, nonetheless remind that these forests are no replacement for natural forests. The debate on the pros and cons of the Miyawaki planting method continues. However, amidst the ongoing efforts to tackle climate change challenges, the Miyawaki technique is considered worth exploring and undertaking to increase the green cover, which would subsequently protect and conserve our Planet.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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