In a major river restoration project, RC Bangalore, RID 3190, has teamed up with the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to execute aerial reforestation of around 2,000 hectares of land. This area is along the dried river banks of the Upper Palar river basin that starts from Kolar and reaches Chithoor in Andhra Pradesh via Kaiwara taluk of Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka.
As part of the first phase of this pilot project “we have already planted 40,000 saplings, improved the livelihood of 5,000 people in six villages in Kaiwara by revamping schools, upgrading PHCs, setting up toilet blocks, bus shelters, drinking water facilities and streetlights, among others, at a cost of ₹1 crore,” says R Girish, president, RC Bangalore. The AOLF has conceptualised, planned and is implementing the river restoration project in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Rotary Environment Foundation (REF), the brainchild of AKS donor Ravishankar Dakoju, is taking up the aerial disbursal of 32 crore organic seed balls weighing over one tonne, through a Cessna aircraft during the monsoon from June-October 2022 as part of the phase-I work. He had set aside ₹40 lakh for the current year, and in the coming years the earnings from his Endowment Fund created through TRF will be spent along with CSR donations.
The Upper Palar river basin is spread over 2,873 sqkm across eight taluks in the three revenue districts of Kolar, Chikkaballapur and Bengaluru Rural. This area comprises 108 mini watersheds; 2,041 tanks and a network stream of 4,870km. “The budget estimate is ₹5–7 crore over five years and so far, we have already spent ₹2.5 crore. The entire funding is done by our club and AOLF; while REF is part of our executing team,” says Girish.
At the formal launch of the aerial reforestation project, PDG Suresh Hari and Ravishankar explained to RI President Shekhar Mehta that with the support of Aerialworks Aero company, seed balls of different tree species will be disbursed from a small plane “which is a proven mechanism and very successful compared to using drones which don’t have the capacity to lift heavy payloads to the required height and then fly as per requirements before dropping the seed balls.”
Through the restoration of the Upper Palar river basin, Rotary aims to achieve carbon sequestration (storing of carbon gases in reservoirs like forests and rivers), improved water quality, ushering in biodiversity and wildlife habitats. Many villagers get employed in the implementation of this environment project. The rainfed Palar river originates from Kolar district (15 per cent), flows into Andhra Pradesh (27 per cent) and meanders its way through Tamil Nadu (58 per cent) before reaching the Bay of Bengal.