By Meera Bhardwaj

In an innovative approach, forest officials and cyclists rode from Belagavi city to Shirur Dam, Gokak taluk to bring in green awareness among school children in the rural areas of this district in Karnataka. This was a unique initiative taken up jointly by Belagavi forest officials and the Belgaum Pedallers Club (BPC) to educate school children on the need for taking up plantation activities in their vicinity.

On Sunday, more than 20 members of the BPC and five forest officials pedaled across the villages of Basapura, Islampura, Shahbandar, Hagedala, and Shirur to garner attention of school children to the ongoing Vanamahotsa program in this district. They pedaled almost a distance of 80 kilometers from Belagavi city to Shirur from 6.30 am to1 pm.

Unmindful of mild rainfall for 20 kilometers, officials and cyclists pedaled for a cause and for the many school children they encountered, it was a thrilling experience. Across villages, children evinced keen interest in the awareness talks by forest officials on the need for planting trees and their benefits. It was not just a nature exploratory ride but also a plantation ride for the cyclists.

Speaking to Green Minute, Sangamesh Prabhakar, Range Forest Officer, Gujanal Range, Belagavi Forest Division said, “We have many ongoing programs for greening activities, however, needed something new to attract the attention of school children and so tied up with BPC. The response was very good as everywhere children stopped us and put many a question on our cycling tour traversing the countryside as also our motto. With support from CCF, DCF and ACF, the green initiative was a big success.”

BPC founder member Ajaz Inamdar added, “On Sunday, we started from College Road and more than 20 members participated including our President Dr Kiran Khot, Secretary Dr Rahul and others. We planted saplings and in fact, each member planted one sapling. We rode some 72 kilometers up and down from Belgavi city to Hagedal while at the plantation point; the RFO provided us lot of information about trees and greening efforts.”

As part of the ride, all the members too planted saplings at Shirur. Cassia fistula, the state tree of Kerala was planted which is a medicinal plant finding use in treating skin diseases. This species sheds its leaves in November and comes out with beautiful yellow flowers which are a beautiful sight to watch, the RFO explained.

Just next to the Shirur Dam, the state forest department has its nursery where saplings are grown and nurtured to be distributed to farmers, citizens, schools, institutions and others. During 2018-19, more than 3.4 lakh saplings have been raised for distribution and the species include sandal, red sanders, Melia dubia, curry leaf, etc. Usually for community farming, the sandal species are distributed while cherries and jamun varieties find favor with schools and colleges.

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