An Israeli rating agency once requested Pradip Shah's technical assistance after speaking at an SEC event in the United States. The agency planted 100 trees in his honour as a token of appreciation for his help and guidance.
The thoughtful gesture led Shah to establish a social enterprise Grow-Trees.com that offers a pioneering, web-enabled, and cost-effective solution to individuals and companies for planting trees across the world, offsetting carbon emissions, improving wildlife habitats, and benefitting the communities dependent on the forests. Shah created the concept of 'Greet with Trees®' and a 'Treebank®' where one could plant and store trees virtually, and dedicate them to their loved ones via eTreeCertificates®.
Since its inception in 2010, the organisation has so far planted 99,57,356 trees across 23 states in India and is thrilled to be so close to the 10 million mark now.
"We primarily plant on community lands in villages and cities, and we work with local and tribal communities to provide jobs for them. While rural populations already have an inextricable relationship with forests, we are working to emphasise the importance of tree planting through our plantation initiatives in various cities and villages," Supriya Patil, Environmental Expert, Grow-Trees.com told The Logical Indian.
Initiatives Taken To Preserve Wild Fauna
The organisation has programs that focus on vulnerable and endangered species in various parts of India. Their plantation initiatives aim to restore the habitats of tigers in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, Sloth Bears and Indian Giant Flying Squirrels in Rajasthan, Blackbears in Sikkim, and Sun Bears in Arunachal Pradesh.
Some of the projects Grow-Trees.com has introduced for wildlife include Trees for Elephants, Trees for Tigers, Trees for Hanguls, Trees for Himalayan Black Bear, Trees for Sloth Bears, Trees for Slender Lorises, etc.
"We have planted almost seven lakh trees in Jharkhand and Odisha to reinforce the elephant corridor, which also serves the Santhal and Munda tribes. The trees planted generated work for these communities, creating assets for them in the form of trees as tribal communities depend primarily on forest for sustenance," Patil said.
The plantation also assisted in resolving human-animal conflicts that had arisen due to elephants straying into human settlements due to habitat destruction. In addition, a pond was enlarged and water pumps were erected at Lailam village in Jharkhand as part of the Trees+ initiative, guaranteeing that the people did not encounter water scarcity.
Based on the population and native habitats of different species, the organisation has introduced projects that can specifically help to densify wildlife corridors and restore natural habitats.
"We also consider the feeding patterns of the animals. We only plant species that will benefit both the wildlife and the local population," Patil explained.
"Each project we introduce strives to offer a holistic impact by catering to diminishing forests, reducing wildlife numbers, and rural and tribal communities who face the brunt of deteriorating environment," she said.
Patil believes that habitat loss is the most serious issue the endangered animals confront, making locating food difficult and leaving them vulnerable to predation. The team at Grow-Trees.com consults environmental experts, forest department, and local communities and does thorough research to understand which plant species would benefit a particular animal. The process takes a lot of effort and research to ensure it gets right and understand the potential consequences to make informed decisions.
Risks Flora And Fauna Face Across India
When asked about the various risks that flora and fauna face across India, Patil said deforestation is the first and most common.
"As we all know, habitat loss does not only entail a lack of shelter, animals choose their trees for a variety of reasons, including predator protection, food availability, and so on. When animals lose this sense of security, their offspring's growth is often disrupted," Patil pointed.
The environmentalist also added that myths in communities also endanger the country's flora and animals.
"Slender Loris, for example, are frequently hunted in Tamil Nadu due to the notion that they are not beneficial for the community, even though they are farmer-friendly. Hunting is also a significant contributor to the extinction of some species," she said.
Patil also feels the need to make people aware of how even small choices can cause a significant difference to the environment and biodiversity. For example, reducing the usage of single-use plastic, reusing and recycling old goods, or composting at home to help alleviate the problems that threaten flora, fauna, and human well-being.
Grow-Trees.com now intends to bring a lot of communities with them, incorporate more urban spaces and have more participation from the urban landscape. It also aims to introduce plantation programs on a global scale to address the problems of global warming on a large scale.
"We are also strengthening our ties with forest departments and assisting our corporate partners in achieving their goals of attaining carbon neutrality. We aim to establish the concept of Blue Carbon by initiating mangrove plantations drives in the coastal belts of the country," Patil said.
In order to add more value to the lives of local communities who often suffer because of a lack of resources and amenities, Grow-Trees.com is also determined to introduce activities that can generate employment for these communities.
"For instance, we have recently provided families in Munnaikadu, Tamil Nadu with the equipment necessary for seaweed cultivation as it is immensely economical to grow and can thrive without fertilisers, freshwater or active human intervention and even helps in the sequestration of carbon," Patil concluded.