Engineer Shubhendu Sharma (30) nurtures the dream of growing trees in the heart of the ever-expanding cities in India. He started his journey of producing small forests within the busy Indian cities in 2011 after he cultivated his very own small forest on a land he owned in Kashipur, Uttarakhand.
Shubhendu made a business out of planting trees across India and inspired hundred others to follow his footsteps.
“I plant forests because I like to see nature regenerate itself in a natural way”
A few months after he grew his own 270-tree forest, Sharma launched a business to create small forests in urban areas. He formed his own company Afforestt which has till date has created over 75 forests, some of which are outside India. Afforestt has also planted forests in Singapore, Pakistan, the Netherlands and the United States.
Anyone can grow their own forest in merely two years using Sharma’s method. This is a significant idea in a place like India where about 45 percent of land has been degraded by deforestation, unsustainable farming methods and excessive groundwater extraction. Thankfully, India still has about 68 million hectares of forested land, which makes it the 10th most forested country in the world.
He learned the forestation technique in 2008 when he was an engineer with Toyota. The company had invited Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist specialised in plant ecology, to conduct a workshop teaching forestation methods. Shubhendu was very impressed with the talk and decided to work in the similar field.
With his guidance, for over a six-month period, 300 volunteers together planted over 30,000 trees on a land owned by Toyota. Within two years, the forest flourished sprouting ambitions in Sharma. In November 2010, he started planting trees at his own house and then for others, too.
Before planting, he inspects the soil for availability of nutrients and adds biomass from the surrounding environment to make the soil more porous. This helps water to easily penetrate and reach the growing tree roots.
He also adds micro-organisms (bacteria and microscopic mushrooms) that feed off of the biomass mixed in with the soil to produce the nutrients naturally. Then he identifies the kind of trees which are native to the site and plant trees accordingly (by dividing the trees into our categories: bushes, small trees, regular trees and trees that create canopies).
“We’ll soon create a forest in the Val de Loire region in France”
Shubhendu and his team will start a new project in Val de Loire region in France, in November 2016. In Europe, they charge 40 euros per square metre whereas in India, they only charge 10 euros per square metre.
7,000 trees in a single day in 2013
Dr Vivek Nagarajan is a professor at the University of Technology in Coimbatore, in southern India. He and his students used Shubhendu Sharma’s method to plant a forest. In a single day, around 300 student volunteers planted over 7,000 trees around the University.