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A `forest' in the heart of Mysore city

Special Correspondent



TRANSFORMATION: Swami Muktidananda looking at the greenery on the campus of the Ramakrishna Vidyalaya in Mysore. — PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM

MYSORE: From wasteland to greenland, and a hot spot of biodiversity. It is an amazing story of transforming a large area of barren rocky land to evergreen forest teeming with rare species of flora and fauna.

Walk through the lush green environment and one would feel like being somewhere in the undisturbed patch of Western Ghats, but not in a city teeming with vehicles and maddening crowd. Welcome to the jungles, one may be tempted to say but this is Ramakrishna Vidyashala campus in the heart of Mysore.

Providing the much-needed lung space and adding to the beauty of the city, the campus is home to over 1,000 species of plants and 400 species of birds. This includes some of the rare and exotic species found in different parts of the world.

Though the campus is spread over 69 acres, the monks of Ramakrishna Mission who are administering the institute have retained nearly 50 acres for green belt and converted the barren land into a hot spot of biodiversity thanks to their diligence and love for nature.

Swami Muktidanandaji, correspondent, Ramakrishna Vidyashala, told The Hindu that the campus had turned into a veritable sanctuary and was home to rare species, including the North American Giant Red Wood that is reckoned to be among the tallest growing tree species in the world. The sanctuary within the campus has emerged a haven for over 400 species of birds that now flock here during different seasons.

Rajesh, a second PU student of the ashram and a budding naturalist who can identify the calls of over innumerable species of birds, said 50 species of butterflies too had been identified within the campus sanctuary and there could be more. "The species of birds that have been identified include Paradise Flycatcher reckoned to be among the most beautiful birds and Tickell's Flower Pecker that measures only 10 cm and is the smallest bird in India. Likewise, Hornbills are seldom found in Mysore region, but have been sighted on the campus and Golden Oriole which flies in here all the way from Russia."

The exotic species of plants include Rudrakshi tree and a host of medicinal plants that are found in the Himalayan region. The green canopy in the sanctuary has played a major role in regulating the micro-climatic conditions, and as a result the ambient temperature in the sanctuary area is about two degrees Celsius below the average city temperature, according to Swami Muktidananda.

How did this transformation of a rocky barren land into thick forest teeming with myriad life forms, come about? Swami Muktidananda pointed out that the monks under Swami Shambhavananda and Swami Sureshananda made a conscious effort to introduce a number of rare species of plants from across the country. Inter-cropping with coffee plantation was started and drip irrigation too was introduced and the ashram was regarded as pioneers in introducing the modern method of irrigation in South India. Artificial contours and bunds were made to collect rainwater which helped in recharging the ground water.Today, the forest here require no tending and its growth is entirely natural.

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