Stop and smell the rose here

A tree lined avenue in GKVK

By Ipsita K
NSoJ Bureau

Gandhi Krishi Vignan Kendra wasn’t always so green.  What now looks
almost like a reserved forest accompanied with well-planned paths and
building to constitute the campus, was once a rocky, undulating
land.On a stroll inside the GKVK campus of the University of
Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, one finds himself amidst 1600 acres
of land covered with lush greenery.

Dr. K. Chandrasekhara, a professor at the Department of Entomology at
The University of Agriculture Sciences, was one of the first batch to
come to GKVK in 1975. He said,“When the university was first set up,
the ground was almost barren with laterite soil all over.  To combat
the infertile soil, and the rocky terrain, everybody in the college
took to afforestation, planting orchard trees. Great stress was given
to detail (since it was primarily supposed to be an agricultural
college), with different blocks created for different types of crops.”

GKVK to Jalahalli was previously open land with a few hamlets here and
there. Because of no obstructions, wind speeds used to go haywire and
students couldn’t sit in the classrooms, because the glass panes of
doors and windows would shatter. As a result, the university had to
install natural wind breakers- Casuarina and Eucalyptus trees were
planted in aplenty, row after row. If one was to commit a murder and
throw the corpse into the dense forestry, no one would have a clue.

Trees were also planted to reduce dust storms, says Professor
Chandrasekhara. Owing to the presence of vast open land, students would
be engulfed in red dust at the end of the day. To combat this issue,
plantation took place around the periphery of the buildings.

Over the years, trees have been planted by the university authorities
and students alike for educational purposes, and quite a lot of these
trees are of great commercial value. “Every year during our Freshers’
party, we plant trees. It is like a ritual,” said Sushma, a third year
student of the university, as she swore by the fact that no trees are
being cut.

Sadly, deforestation isn’t a myth. Bellary Road used to be lined
with Gulmohar trees and Attur Layout was a treasure trove of sandalwood
trees. One will fail to notice an abundance of these trees here today
because they were cut down. Sandalwood trees attracted thieves for
their high commercial value.  Dr Harini Nagendra, a professor of
sustainability at the Azim Premji University, conducted a study
analysing ten Bangalore roads, with and without trees. The study
showed that street segments with trees had on average lower
temperature, humidity and pollution, with afternoon air temperatures
lower by as much as 5.6 degrees Celsius and road surface temperatures
that were lower too.

Anurag Behar, who is the CEO of AzimPremji Foundation, fondly talks
about the days he spent with his son playing football in the GKVK
campus, in an article. The campus provides a few playgrounds and open
spaces that are easily accessible to everyone. He
reiterates the importance of such spaces saying, “What is the
possibility of a child of upper middle class privilege, like my son,
playing football with construction? The chances are zero. We live in
different worlds in the same city with no common ground. The lack of
common ground has complex reasons. One set arises from our
impoverished urban environments with no accessible public spaces. GKVK
exemplifies such a public space.”

Not only is the vast campus a retreat for humans, but it is also a
safe haven for animals like wild boars and slender loris. They take
refuge inside the campus, away from human menace. In a fast growing
city like Bangalore where urbanisation is a necessary evil, places
like GKVK provide a sense of tranquillity, away from the hustle and
bustle of the town. Perhaps if more institutions follow GKVK’s
footsteps, the city’s youth will actually find a place to stop and
smell the roses.


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