Aug 15 2015 | Focus


´Industrialization´ and ´Urbanization´ has created havoc on the rural, industrial and urban ecology that has adversely affected ecosystem services to humans. The worst affected people in such case have always been economically and socially backward people and communities. Moreover, the loss to farmers and agricultural sector due to erratic weather, non-availability of water and lower yields due to pollination issues are well known.

Ashok Jain, Director & Strategist, Terracon Ecotech Pvt Ltd shares his views with Sandeep Sharma about the process involved in the Tree Census, benefits to the municipal corporations, time taken to complete the survey, similar projects under implementation, challenges before the country in Smart Cities development and the greatest dangers to the ecology owing to rapid industrialisation. Edited Excerpts...

Could you share with us the benefits of Tree Census to the Municipal Corporations?
This activity is to comply with a legal provision under Protection and Preservation of Tree Act, 1975 wherein a municipal body is required to undertake tree census once before 1996 and once every five years. Tree Census provides a baseline data for City’s tree cover, tree diversity, green cover, carbon sequestration capacity and list and location of important trees in the city area that needs attention. The Tree census data may also be used for allocation of budgets for future plantation and maintenance of trees, ward wise. This plan may also include estimations on labor and water requirements for each zone / ward. Broadly, the data generated also helps us in comparing number of trees (ward wise) with population etc., intra city comparisons and gap analysis etc.

How much time does it take to complete this census?
Time taken to complete tree census studies depends on the number of trees the City has as also the area of the city to be covered. Typically, we can enumerate about 1 to 1.5 lac tree in a month with aggressive deployment of resources. For smaller areas, we normally complete about 50,000 trees in a month.

What kind of accuracy can one expect from this census?
The accuracy of the data is about 99% with 1% error expected due to human error, inaccessibility, wrong identification or classification of data and technical problems. In terms of GPS device, the accuracy of the location of each tree is about 2-3 meters.

What are the steps involved in conducting the tree census?
Each tree census is to be carried out by experienced and trained botanists who are able to identify tree as well as assess the health of the trees properly. Steps involved are:

  • Preparing / studying the map of the area to be covered
  • Deployment of botanists in the field with cleared earmarked areas for each team
  • Physical visit and enumeration of each tree by field team
  • Downloading field data and analysis of the same
  • Cross checking of data in the field and in the sheets
  • Identification of unidentified trees with the help of senior taxonomists
  • Preparation and submission of report

Which are the other similar projects being implemented by you?
We have project currently running in Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation (pending trees) and Kolhapur Municipal Corporation.

What kind of projects do you undertake for Municipal Corporations and Urban Development Authorities in India?
We undertake following jobs from Urban Local Bodies and Regional Development Authorities:

  • Biodiversity Surveys, Assessments & Preparing Biodiversity Action Plan
  • Conducting tree census and natural resource inventorization for city
  • Lake and River Restoration DPR and Execution
  • Mangrove survey, estimation and conservation plan
  • Tree Plantation and Transplantation
  • Mangrove Plantation and Regeneration
  • What´s your take on the challenges before the country in building up ´100 Smart Cities´?
    We believe it is an ambitious task to reorient existing cities into smart cities with archaic systems, processes and human resources. It requires massive capacity building, mindset change among officers and citizens, zero based budgeting (as compared to incremental budgeting) and focused approach to building not only ´Smart´ but also ´Sustainable´ cities.

    The term of ´Smart Cities´ encompasses a vision of an urban space that is ecologically friendly, technologically integrated and meticulously planned, with a particular reliance on the use of information technology to improve efficiency´. Our belief is that the current framework of Smart Cities released by the Government does not lay much emphasis on the ´Ecology´ component and that would be a disaster. Terracon Ecotech aims to create these sensibilities among the government to incorporate this component in the planning of these smart cities. Terracon has prepared its own methodology and approach for these smart cities with three component viz. natural resource management, biodiversity & ecosystem services and carbon neutrality.

    Apart from the local government bodies who are your target clientele?
    Terracon works with governments (with state government and local bodies) and private sector client for several activities pertaining to impact assessments, management plans, biodiversity action plans, ecological restoration and environmental consulting projects. We have worked with Vedanta, Reliance, Tata, Mahindra, ACC, JSW, Piramal, Godrej etc.

    Could you tell us what is the greatest danger to our ecology with the growing pace of industrialization?
    ´Industrialization´ and ´Urbanization´ has created havoc on the rural, industrial and urban ecology that has adversely affected ecosystem services to humans. The worst affected people in such case have always been economically and socially backward people and communities. Moreover, the loss to farmers and agricultural sector due to erratic weather, non-availability of water and lower yields due to pollination issues are well known. There is a strong need for both these developments to co-exist with preservation and balancing of ecology, biodiversity and environment around us. There are plenty of success stories to talk about positive impact on businesses and people / community when environment and ecological considerations have taken priority in decision making. Such approach needs to be inculcated and imbibed in the business community as well as governments (both politicians and bureaucrats) for a balance, positive growth in industrialization and urbanization.

    Tree Inventory project
    Terracon Ecotech is the single largest Tree Census conducting Group in India. The group has successfully completed Tree Census projects for Municipal Corporations of Thane, Mira Bhaindar, Khopoli, Palghar, Islampur etc. Terracon has recently concluded it´s yet another Tree Inventory project with Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation having enumerated 11.3 lac trees. Terracon Ecotech has also enumerated over 2.5 lac trees for Kolhapur Municipal Corporation and is expected to complete the work by end of this year.

    Apart from Government agencies, various reputed corporate like L&T, HPCL, Hindustan Zinc, ACC, Tata Power, etc. have also shown trust in Terracon Ecotech for its detailed and scientifically implemented Tree Inventory/Census and other biodiversity services.

    Terracon is India´s first company to incorporate the application of advanced geo-informatics (GIS & GPS) in tree census & natural resource inventory. It captures all relevant attributes of each tree during field visits by qualified botanists / taxonomists such as species, girth, height, age, canopy, health, location etc. while adding several other attributes from the vast knowledge bank of the company. This enables Terracon to provide much-needed insight and baseline data for decision-making by Municipal Bodies.

    Dr Ramesh Madav, Director ´ Ecology & Restoration, Terracon Ecotech, who has over 30 years of experience in the environment industry and involved in over 20 tree census projects across the country, said, ´Tree inventory helps in creating a robust baseline, estimating green cover, maintenance needs, carbon sequestration capacity and biomass potential in the project area. In order to enhance the accuracy, manage and analyze the data, we have also developed proprietary software VrukshSharad+ (VS+) to manage, map and search key elements of the inventory´.