A guerrilla gardener working in secret creates a forest in Kolkata
Mantu Hait, 45, from Kolkata, has been on a secret mission for 15 years. It entails a small patch of land, some botanical weapons, and fairly a little bit of subterfuge. The land is a vacant plot that sits between a canal and a railway monitor in southern Kolkata. This is the place Hait does his guerrilla gardening
Worldwide, guerrilla gardening is the time period used for do-gooders who plant and have a tendency to greenery on city plots they don’t personal or have a reliable declare to. Usually, these are authorities plots; in uncommon instances, they’re non-public however uncared for or deserted.
In Kolkata, this Port Trust plot served as a play space within the 1990s, when Hait was a toddler. “It was like an unkempt meadow, with some big trees on the periphery,” he says. Slowly, rubbish started to appear. By the late ’90s, the timber have been gone.
“That broke my heart,” Hait says. “I wanted to do something good but I was just a college student with no money.”
By 2005, he was a practising advocate in an Alipore courtroom and the plot was now driving him loopy. So Hait determined to simply step up and act. “I spent Rs 100 on some saplings and started planting them. Some survived, some died. I continued doing this for a few years, with some positive results,” he says.
15 years in the past Mantu Hait, 45, spent Rs 100 and began planting some saplings within the uncared for space. Now, even when a tree falls, they don’t clear it away. The rotting tree provides delivery to numerous forms of mushrooms and help different life types.
Hait then began volunteering with a neighborhood NGO known as Prakriti Samsad (Organising for Nature) and so they started to pitch in with materials. Friends and household donated too. Another NGO, the Alipore Environmental Association, heard of his efforts and reached out. Just a few volunteers helped him filter out the rubbish, one patch at a time.
“Over a year, I planted around 500 saplings, and I noticed that the saplings for big trees were doing really well. I did some research and learnt more about things like what to plant, and how close to plant them so that they could help sustain each other. That’s when I first heard the phrase guerrilla gardening and realised that was me!”
Over the previous decade, mango, sheesham, plum, guava, tamarind and Asoka timber have come up on this 1-km-long strip.
“Right now, it looks like a forest. The trees need barely any maintenance — once a year four of my friends and I plant some seeds and saplings and clear out any garbage.”
Once filling up with rubbish, the land now attracts all kinds of birds.
Meanwhile, Hait has continued to jot down letters usually to the Kolkata Port Trust, asking for permission to do clean-up and plantation drives on this land. “All my letters have gone unanswered. But there has been no objection either. And now there are birds and butterflies here now, mongooses and squirrels. People go there for morning walks.”
It’s like a tiny forest in a polluted, crowded a part of town. “Even if a tree falls, we don’t clear it away. We let the rotting tree gives birth to various types of mushrooms and support other life forms,” Hait says.
The patch of nature is prized by native residents. “Hait is doing an excellent job. This forest has changed the air,” says Pratik Maitra, 72, a retired architect. “The greenery here keeps the area cooler the rest of the city. I’ve lived here all my life but never saw so many varieties of birds as we see now. Sometimes people try to dump garbage or cut the trees. We conduct regular checks and tell them to leave the place alone.”