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Nurturing a jungle, in the heart of the city

J. Malarvizhi

Former garbage dump will soon become an ‘organised natural forest’

— Photo: K. Pichumani

GO GREEN: A view of the park that marks the entry to Chennai Corporation’s urban afforestation project in Otteri.

CHENNAI: A jungle is being nurtured in the heart of the city. Near Slum Clearance Board tenements, a burial ground and garbage transfer station in Otteri, a former garbage dump, is slowly being converted into an ‘organised natural forest.’

Some features proposed for the Adyar Poonga, such as the plant awareness centre, would be replicated at the urban afforestation programme for Otteri that is spread across more than 10 acres, Chennai Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said.

Plant species that would be represented in the park would be vegetation of the Coromandel coast, including plants of medicinal value. The plant growth so far has been very good and the lush growth of unwanted species had to be curtailed, he said.

Nearly 8,000 saplings have been planted in the area so far, officials said. The Chennai Corporation has taken up the project with the assistance of Joss Brooks, an ecologist who has been working on recreating the environment of the Coromandel Coast and is involved in the Adyar Poonga project to rejuvenate the Adyar estuary area as well.

The garbage in the former garbage dump was several feet deep at the initiation of the project. It was shifted to Kodungaiyur and a wall constructed around the area at an estimated Rs.70 lakh in 2005.

Initially, saplings of avenue trees were dying off due to the high nitrogen content of the soil.

Species typical of the tropical dry evergreen forest of the Coromandel Coast were then chosen. Most of these have exhibited good growth.

A small park marks the entry into the urban jungle. There would also be places inside for visitors to sit down and relax. A lily pond, a nursery with medicinal plants and painted slabs of stone, carrying details about the vegetation, bird, animal and insect life typical to such jungle, are other attractions.

There are more structures to be constructed, including shaded seating areas and toilet facilities, inside the park. The eco-park should be open in another year, officials estimate.

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