The extraordinary rise in population in the third world countries, specially in India has created an ironic situation so far as the land is concerned. We require more land for residential use and more land for growing food too. A strange situation has been created affecting gravely our environment too. As no one would like to live in the Sahara or the Middle East deserts or even in the sands of Rajasthan, the eye is fixed on the green forests where the population is thin.
The forest land has been acquired throughout India both for residential areas and agriculture. But it has cost the country heavily as deforestation has created environmental problems, has snatched the land from the forest dwellers who depended on the forest wealth and has adversely affected the fauna and flora of the country. Many animal species are gradually disappearing, creating an imbalance in the animal world. Many plants having medicinal value are becoming rare.
Instead of ravaging the forests some alternative is to be found. We just cannot copy Australian, Canadian, Russian or USA style about the use of land Australia with an area of 7,682,300 sq. km has a population of only one crore ninety two lakh. Canada with an area of 9,976,139 sq. km. has a population of three crore eighty lakh. Russia having the largest area of 17,075,000 sq. km. in the world has a population of only Fourteen crore fifty two lakh. USA too with an area of 9,372,614 sq. km. has a population of twenty seven crore fifty six lakh while India with a comparatively smaller area of actual control (leaving 120849 sq. km. occupied by Pakistan and China) of 3,166,414 sq. km. supports a population of more than one hundred crore. These and many other European countries having spare land ma} use land in a luxurious manner. We in India have actually to create land. Thus our management has to be different.
As all the cultivable land is under the plough we have to look to the wasteland. Surprisingly enough the area of wasteland too is quite big. There is enough of space on both the sides of the highways. Trees and plants are grown on the main highways of course. Enter the interior anywhere in the North, West and Central India one finds that no efforts have been made to make the optimum use of this space that runs into millions of km.
In the eighties the attention of Railway Ministry was drawn to the wasteland that lies on both the sides of the railway track. After long consideration it was decided to allot a part to the railway employees for small stretch of farming. Little has been done in this respect. The land can have green patches of useful plants, trees and grazing grass to be converted into hey. With the introduction of electric trains locomotives do not vomit malicious gases or waste destroying the greenery and plants.
The demarcating mud boundaries in the countryside are actually wasteland. They should be changed into hedge formations of strong creepers and trees in double rows. The strong creepers can be used for fuel while the trees can provide fruits. Both have a commercial value. In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and the Southern plateau having uneven ranges much of die rocky wasteland has not yet come under agricultural or horticultural management.
It may look strange but there is much of wasteland in the towns and villages too. The two sides of the roads in the towns still remain nude. We can clothe them with trees. It, of course, requires social consciousness. In the South we find coconut trees in the courtyards of many a bungalow of the cities and houses in the villages. In the North Eastern region pineapple trees are very common in residential areas.
In certain cities one finds patches of barren wasteland. In Dehradun – U.P. gentlemen cadets of the Indian Military Academy joined school children in planting 14,000 saplings to start the Dehradun city forest to compensate for the denuded hills. A former Army chief B. C. Joshi took up afforestation projects on wasteland in the occupation of Cantonments in L P. MP, Bihar and Orissa. Other commands are expected to follow.
In India an escape from city life means a long distance to Mussoorie, S. Namarg, Yercaud, Shillong or Mount Abu. Haryana of course provides resorts to Delhites. But many European countries have tended the city wastelands changing them in city forests as in Vienna in Germany. They stretch over hundreds of sq. km. Singapore a total wasteland island a few decades back can boast today as totally urbanized but remarkably green. Jurong Bird Park is just the lung of the industrial area of Jurong.
In India too we have city wastelands turned into eco-friendly greenery. Bhopal that experienced world’s worst industrial tragedy has India’s greatest city forest. Ridge in Delhi is a city forest. In Mumbai too the old wasteland -on Cuffe Parade reclamation is being developed as the city lung. It may be on the pattern of Rajneesh Ashram Pune where Oslo’s followers converted a polluted ravine into a beautiful landscape in the Japanese style.
The most remarkable example of a wasteland changed into a sprawling garden is in Bhubaneshwar. Planned by the Regional Plant Resource Centre, spreading over 487 acres it is the largest botanical garden in Asia and Australia. Known as Ekamra Kanan, adjacent to Chandaka Reserve Forest it has 3,250 species of native and exotic plants. Research centre attached to the Kanan has developed 100 species of tropical and subtropical species of palm. The bam busteum can boast to have developed 63 types of bamboo species and 1,050 species of cacti. The ultra-modern laboratory of the centre has developed tissue culture techniques for rapid propagation of woody ornamental plants, tropical trees, fruit plants and species of medicinal importance. A little of vision and planning can change the wastelands into eco-friendly sprawling parks throughout the country.