News Excerpt
Kerala Government has recently decided to develop forests based on Miyawaki method on the government office premises, residential complexes, school premises etc. Also, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in a bid to facilitate sustainable green cover on the under-construction coastal road stretch has planned to plant the Miyawaki forest on the 70-hectare stretch of Phase 1 of the project.

What is Miyawaki Method of Afforestation
•    It is named after the Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki.
•    In this method, the soil of a future forest site is analyzed and then improved, using locally available sustainable amendments—for example, rice husks from a nearby mill.
•    About 50 to 100 local plant species from the four categories i.e. main tree species, sub-species, shrubs, and ground-covering herbs are selected and planted as seedlings in a random mix like one that is found growing naturally in the wild.
•    The seedlings are planted very densely—20,000 to 30,000 per hectares as opposed to 1,000 per hectare in commercial forestry.
•    For a period of two to three years, the site is monitored, watered, and weeded, to give the nascent forest every chance to establish itself.
•    During this early period, the plantings compete with each other for space and access to light and water—a battle that encourages much faster growth.
•    In conventional afforestation techniques, 1 meter of growth per year is considered the norm. In the Miyawaki method, trees grow about 10 times faster.
•    Once stabilized, the forest is left to flourish on its own without further interference.

Benefits of the Miyawaki Method
    A unique methodology has proven to work worldwide, irrespective of soil and climate conditions.
    Approximately 30 times more trees are planted, as compared to conventional plantation techniques.
    A minimum of 300% more species in the same area as compared to conventional plantation species.
    A substantial 3000% increase in noise and dust isolation.
    Up to 30 times or more Carbon-dioxide absorption as compared to conventional forest.
    A completely maintenance-free, wild and native forest after the first three years.
    A completely chemical-fertilizer free forest that sustains itself and supports local bio-diversity.
    Customised modem day plantation that can be modified and inserted in everyday spaces available around us.
    A natural bulwark against soil erosion and Tsunami.

Criticism of the Miyawaki Method
    Critics have accused him of shilling for corporations like Toyota, which have contributed to deforestation in places such as India, and of creating monotonous-looking forests that are expensive to boot.
    Environmentalists have questioned the efficacy of the method that accelerates the growth of trees and claims to match a forest’s complex ecosystem. They believe that it is not a good idea to force plants to photosynthesise fast. Also, a forest is not just the trees, but a complex ecosystem.
    The technique was started by the Japanese considering the climate in Japan and the regular occurrence of natural calamities like earthquakes. Environmentalists have questioned the suitability of the method for a tropical country like India.
    Miyawaki forests can only be grown at smaller spaces in or near cities. Such forests also lack some qualities of natural forests, such as medicinal properties and the ability to bring rain.
    Miyawaki Forests are very dense, which restricts the movement of any possible wildlife the forest might attract. Experts are of the opinion that nothing can replace something that is very natural in its form, like natural forests. However, it cannot be denied that these plantations can supplement and complement them.

Importance of Urban Afforestation
    The rapid expansion of cities takes place without any land-use planning strategy and the resulting human pressure has highly damaging effects on forests, landscapes, as well as green areas in and around cities.
    The environmental impacts of urbanization are often intensified by climate change and include increased pollution, decreased availability of food and resources, as well as increased poverty and frequency of extreme climatic events.
    Urban trees can help to mitigate some of the negative impacts and social consequences of urbanization, and thus make cities more resilient to these changes.
    Trees can contribute to the increase of local food and nutrition security, providing food such as fruits, nuts and leaves for both human consumption and fodder. Their wood, in turn, can be used for cooking and heating.
    Trees play an important role in increasing urban biodiversity, providing plants and animals with a favourable habitat, food and protection.
    A mature tree can absorb up to 150 kg of CO2 per year. As a result, trees play an important role in climate change mitigation. Especially in cities with high levels of pollution, trees can improve air quality, making cities healthier places to live in.
    Strategic placement of trees in cities can help to cool the air between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, thus reducing the urban “heat island” effect, and helping urban communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.
    Large trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. They absorb pollutant gases (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and sulphur oxides) and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt or smoke out of the air by trapping them on leaves and bark.
    Research shows that living in close proximity of urban green spaces and having access to them, can improve physical and mental health, for example by decreasing high blood pressure and stress. This, in turn, contributes to the well-being of urban communities.
    Mature trees regulate water flow and play a key role in preventing floods and reducing the risk of natural disasters. A mature evergreen tree, for instance, can intercept more than 15 000 litres of water per year.
    Trees also help to reduce carbon emissions by helping to conserve energy. For example, the correct placement of trees around buildings can reduce the need for air conditioning by 30 per cent, and reduce winter heating bills by 20-50 per cent.
    Planning urban landscapes with trees can increase property value, by up to 20 per cent, and attract tourism and business.

The method is being extensively used in and around metro cities like Bengaluru by activists, corporate firms as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, and even individuals. The utility of the method cannot be completely denied but the fact remains true that such forests cannot be compared to natural forests and biodiversity. Thus, it should be ensured that the Miyawaki forest does not become a tool to convert large forest lands for industry applications. In the long run, sustainable methods of development are going to give long-lasting results and in this wake utility of Miyawaki Forests should be analyzed scientifically.

Zero Budget Natural Farming, Van Dhan Yojana, National Green Mission, State of forest Report