ARUNACHALA KADU SHIVA PLANTATION - see AKSP's new web site and also http://www.ser.org/iprn/iprnproject.asp and hotkey.net.au/~apeetha
Name of Organization: Rainforest Information Centre - Kadu Shiva Plantation
on Arunachala Hillock
John Seed, Rainforest Information Centre
Box 368 Lismore 2480 Australia
61 2 66213294
POB # 8, Sri Ramanasramam, Thiruvannamalai, TN 606603, phone: 4175.237445.
Description of organisation:
Rainforest Information Centre (RIC) is an Australian-based NGO and registered charity active since 1979 in the protection of forests and regeneration of denuded landscapes. Current RIC activities may be found at www.rainforestinfo.org.au. RIC has been active in India since 1988 when Apeetha Arunagiri first invited us to participate in reforestation of Arunachala. From this grew the Annamalai Reforestation Society who's work RIC were able to fund in the early '90's via the progressive Australian government of the day amongst others.
Donations to Rainforest Information Centre projects are tax-deductible in Australia, US, UK and Canada.
Description of the project:
After a century of fuel and fodder exploitation of the sacred Arunachala Hillock, a recent upsurge in awareness of environmental mismanagement has resulted in extensive plantations by the Forestry Department which have been funded by the local business community. An area on the lower slopes covering approximately 600 hectares has been allocated by the Reserve Forest Department for plantation by The Village Forest Committee, comprising local rural women and men living nearby, who came forward to undertake this work, and who are concerned to take responsibility for future ground work, bunding and building check dams, digging new pits, and carrying out tree plantation according to seasonal conditions, as well as maintenance and protection of the young trees. The District Forest Officers are encouraging this work, and offer a considerable amount of advice and support.
Qualifications for carrying out this work: The Village Forest Committee is made up of rural persons with a particular interest in Reforestation, including some who have Permaculture and Forestation Training, and all are extending their knowledge as they participate in the Reforestation of the Hill. The Managing Supervisor of the work is a member of the recently formed Arunachala Greening Committee, and he therefore contributes in decision making for the larger community. The Project Co-ordinator, Apeetha Arunagiri, is an Australian resident here for most of the past thirty years; with the assistance of John Seed at the Rainforest Information Centre is Australia, Apeetha was able to initiate the foundation of The Arunachala Afforestation Group in 1986, which became The Annamalai Reforestation Society some years later. ARS continues to flourish with a Permaculture Demonstration Farm, and is undertaking extensive plantation on the south-east slopes of the Hill behind Sri Ramanasramam.
Strategy and Plan of action: The terrain is a gentle slope with several small seasonal streams. We have been digging pits and forming bunds and check dams, and then planting seedlings beside the water courses, as well as seeds during this moonsoon to provide vine cover to the exposed rocky slopes; the lemon grass which is the regular summer fire hazard here is being uprooted and used as mulch on the young plants. During the past three months four thousand five hundred seedlings have been planted. At present we have one woman and one man supervisor, and each are training two persons in this capacity, so that we can extend our labour power after the summer of next year. During the summer months, protection from graziers and arsonists is imperative, and bunding and check dams can be constructed during this time in preparation for the pit digging at the onset of the moonsoon in the coming year. This is intentionally a slow, steady and small project, since the great value in this work lies in the pervasive influence of the Village workers upon the rural community surrounding the hill. We anticipate the maximum number of workers in the future to be forty, in order for it to remain a coherent, meaningful and effective participatory unit which contributes significantly to the general public awareness, and not grow into a tree-planting livlihood machine.
Duration of the project: The projected rate of plantation is tremendously dependent upon the vagaries of seasonal rainfall, nevertheless we are aiming for plantation of the entire area within six years. Meanwhile the projected plan for the rapidly expanding urban population envisages a town with a hill in the middle, covered in wilderness, within the coming five years. So obviously in the future this wilderness, particularly the area covered by the Village Forest Plantation, will depend upon the psychological involvement of a large number of community members, and desperately need maintenance workers and watchmen in order for it to survive the fuel/fodder needs of a large population in future.
Project's objectives: The prognosis for this area's future without extensive tree plantation on our hill, is that it will move from the grey into the black zone: desert; this is because mis-management of our environmental resources coupled with a massive rise in population over the past twenty years has resulted in monumental and very visible depletion in our underground water. Consequently the primary objective of the Greening of Arunachala is the rejuvenation of our artesian system. However this particular Village Forest Plantation has a deeper objective, of which the workers are extremely conscious: this is for a small group of committed individuals who live very nearby the site to undertake responsibility for the solution to a civic need, to participate in the making of decisions about how best to carry out this work, to follow through the work beyond the call of duty, and to communicate about it's meaning on very opportunity with members of their own village community and elsewhere.
For this good reason, the Village Forest Plantation has developed autonomously, and now that an appreciable amount of work has been done, we are appealing for encouragement and support from the wider community. During this winter season we will meet with the members of several ashrams surrounding the plantation area, hoping to attract their approval and assistance. It is important also to draw attention to the project by making ourselves known to, and meeting with, persons from the urban Tamilian Community in the city of Chennai.
November 9, 2003.
Apeetha Arunagiri (Project Co-ordinator)
The hill in the center of the plain is called Arunachala in Sanskrit, and Annamalai in Tamil. There are many names, in fact, Arunagiri is another. It is said to be the oldest protuberance on the earth, it grew in Gondwanda already, long before the Himalayas began. The granite core is said to extend down 200 kilometers into the earth; it is a very stable place with little or no tectonic activity. At the cardinal points surrounding the hill are lingams which I believe cannot be dated. It has been worshipped for a very, very long time, long before the Vedic Mythology reached this southern region. Long before the Vedic distinction arrived here to infuse our minds with Gods and Goddesses, the hill was worshipped as 'Auspicious'; it was called Aruna Samudaram. (Aruna means fire, and samudaram means large bodies of water.) Nowadays, the predominant notion of the meaning of the hill is Siva, although the deities in the temple and the mythology and folk law are insistent on the inseparable Siva/Sakthi. (We can say that Siva is the male principle, the Yang, and Sakthi the female, the Yin.)
Arunachala is one of the five Jyothi Lingams of South India, each of which symbolizes one of the elements. In modern times the Hill is known as the Fire place, but in fact the meaning of the symbol is Light: fire provides the light. Every year a big festival is held in which an enormous oil lamp is lit on the top of the hill, visible for about thirty kilometers radius, and this festival occurs during the rainy season of the year, when there is water. In one of the old halls in the famous big temple in the town there is a lovely old mural of the Fire Hill surrounded by ponds, and it is believed that the Hill Round Roadway provided one hundred and eight ponds for the relief of pilgrims walking around the hill.
The essential role of water in our lives here has been shamefully neglected during the past many years, to the extent that the area surrounding the hill is categorized as moving from the 'grey' to the 'black' zone of environmental mismanagement, heading fast, in other words, towards desert. By the skin of our teeth we have a chance now to replenish the denuded hillock with trees so that it can act as a giant sponge. Supportive Water Management methods are being implemented by the Forestry Department and Municipal Council on the flatlands, and a great deal of mass communication about the work is engendering the psychological involvement of a large number of persons in the community at large. The time is right now for plantation.
Amongst the many mockeries of this present time, there is a sustained, and increasingly vehement, adoration of Siva, with a total disrespect and disregard for his manifestation in Sakthi. Let's contribute towards a balance. Time before mind, undoubtedly, our Auspicious Holy Hillock was once a primeval Seed Bank. Sobeit again.
KADU SHIVA PLANTATION ON ARUNACHALA HILLOCK
AN APPEAL FOR ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
My name is Apeetha Arunagiri, I am an Australian by birth, resident here at Sri Ramanasraman as a guest of India for most of the past thirty years. When I came here initially in 1974, it was after many years of longing to be able to come, since books on Sri Ramana and Arunachala had reached me in outback Australia when I was still a teenager; it was not until completion of a Research Fellowship in Europe that I was enabled to come here to stay.
In 1974 Arunachala was even more barren than it now is, and this was distressing to a country girl from Australia who'd come here to meditate, but at that time the ecological soundness of the Indian way of life was enormously impressive to me, and the underground water surrounding the Hill was reliably high, even in the driest summer. Over the first ten to fifteen years of my residence here, this ecological soundness began to wane, water began to be wasted, our artesian basin began it's speedy depletion, until it seemed imperative to me to enlist the help of another Australian, John Seed of the Rainforest Information Centre in Lismore, in order to begin disseminating information about our community's great need to reforest our Hill, and begin to try to reforest it - an enormous task. The Annamalai Reforestation Society then came into being. The Annamalai Reforestation Society is quite a big concern now.
Now also, our local Forestry Department fortunately now has an excellent Divisionary Head who has given us utmost encouragement; a promising Committee has been formed, and things are beginning to move.
The Kadu Shiva Plantation about which I am now writing, is a very small concern.
It is my belief that the wisest possible way will be to make sure that it remains a very small concern. My impression is that our D.F.O., engaged as he is in massive plantation on the large body of the hill, agrees with me about the relevance of the smallness of the Village Forest Plantation on the lower slopes, upon which we have permission to plant.
The concern is only to plant trees on the Hill, on the 600 hectares of Reserve Forest allocated to us, and for the plantation to be carried out entirely by a maximum of 40 rural persons who live nearby, and for those persons not to be employed as coolies, (working just for money), but to be learning as they work and encouraged to take intimate part in the decision making process; decisions about what to plant, how, where and when, and very importantly: that these persons respect their work for it's own sake on behalf of the community at large. We are not at all interested in accumulating a large balance sheet. We are not interested at all in investing money donated or accumulating it.
Now we are calling for encouragement and support, we are calling for willingness to consider what support is needed at present for the future year. Willingness will be so thankfully received; after receipt of willingness, we will need then to negotiate what will be necessary to rely upon during the coming season. At present we are expending around twenty thousand rupees a month; after the summer of 2004, we can extend our man and women power, but still: our concern is small and powerful.
We are not interested in accumulating funds beyond coming expectations, and those expectations even, are dependent upon seasonal vagaries. At present, we are calling for encouragement, and for offers of support from those of us who rise and shine to our intentions.