A step towards a better environment and bio-resources.
Haridasan, Consultant, Plant Resources, DARE, Ahalia Foundation
The sprawling Ahalia Campus at Ozhalapathi Palakkad district is a futuristic village. Known for its Hertiage tag, world class institutes, Health care establishments and professional colleges, it also give due thrust to cover the campus as much green as possible. The noble vision of our chairman to make the campus a centre of excellence in environmental health has been the motivating force in translating the dreams for a greener Ahalia. Green Ahalia is a concept to covert the landscape to an Oasis amid the semiarid landscape around. It draws its manpower from the several institutes of the group located in the campus. The highly motivated and like-minded team plans out the strategy and action to take it to an enviable position in the state. The whole campus is visualised as a garden that caters to education, research, conservation, sustainable utilisation, extension etc. To be more user friendly and for the ease of implementation, the proposed activities under this umbrella programme has been divided into thematic sections and each of these contribute to the ultimate goal. The programme that is two years old now has been a success story with 16 themes already established.
The themes are listed in the box. The themes tries to link our tradition and culture, exposition to the bioresources, provide refuge and showcase the conservation important species. The themes linking to the Ayurvedic formulations like Dasamoolam, Dasapushpam, Nalpamaram, Thriphala etc offers the Aurvedic medical students a firsthand connection to the plant wealth and Ayurveda. Every theme is laid out with the purpose of education, extension and germplasm conservation. A visitor taking a tour is assured of a great exposure on several aspects of biodiversity. With self-educating sign boards and narrative this garden is poised to be a centre of excellence in this part of the country. It would be an enchanting experience to touch and feel the plants and learn in depth about them and their relevance to the society.
We started with the Star forest in June 2017 launched as part of the World Environment day celebration. The twenty seven plants relating to 27 stars are planted in a special design to suit to the stars and culture. Needless to mention most to then are multipurpose plants with few extremely endangered ones like Pterospermum santalinus. In this garden itself we have accommodated the garden of Zodiac plants with 12 species and 9 species of Navagaraha.
Adjacent to this gardens we have thematic gardens depicting Ayurvedic formulations like Dasamoolam, Dasapushpam, Thriphala, Thrikadu etc. A student of Ayurevda will greatly get benefited by visiting these themes. Not far from here at the site close to the Heritage village is the Bambusetum (a focussed garden for Bamboos) To date there are 24 species of Bamboos that are growing well in this site. Perhaps this is the largest living collection of bamboos in the district. Many of our traditional constructions, art and culture are interrelated to bamboos. Thus this will compliment the Heritage Village expose.
Moving further westward we can see the fruit forest that we established a year back. This garden stocks both indigenous and exotic fruit trees. A visit to our fruit forest will highlight the growth of different species in our agroclimatic condition. The fruiting branches of several of these are a sight to visitor’s eye. Currently there are over 64 species of fruit plants growing at this sight. This will not only provide fruits but also act as a germplasm bank for such fruit species where from propagation material could be generated. Moving o to another dimension of green Ahalia activity is the establishment of RET Plants garden. This essentially is a conservation repository. It has on its hold currently 68 species which will further enlarge with more additions. Few of the endemics like Baccaurea, Coscinium, and threatened ones like Embelia, Aquilaria, Persea, Take refuge here. These plants have been provided wit near natural conditions of shade and edaphic needs. This garden is located nearer to the entry gate.
Closer to the Temple in the campus we established a unique garden of spiritual plants with 22 species. Every plant in this garden is intricately linked to the culture, tradition and belief of the community. They find use in poojas, auspicious occasions and rituals. This is an effort by us to connect our young generations to their own culture. Be it a Rudraksha, a Sandal, a Peepal, Betel wine, seeing them one will immediately connect to the use of it. Closer to this garden, another theme is established with plants used in Health care based on its location we fondly call it Anjaneya Garden which indeed is an Ayur Connect plants. The patients and bye standees will see the plants that go into their treatment. Each plant is provided with self-explaining signages. Plants of a similar moisture regime are grown together which will make it economical in watering needs. There are 77 species in this garden as of now.
Closer to this is the small theme on Nalpamaram. These four species of Ficus are unique and has great application and rare to see at one single space. The latest addition to the Green Ahalia initiative is the new themes like “Kerala Thanima” of plants uniquely linked to Kerala and its culture. This is a very educative theme where common knowledge is popularised. Adjoining to this one is the “Aromatic garden” theme. As indicative the garden is a source of fragrance. More than 25 species are planted here with more additions it is poised to be a major centre of attraction. The flowering time vary from season to season and thus ensure fragrance round the year. Along with this we could also establish a theme garden by the name “Thulasi Thadam”- location for different species of thulsi that vary in colour, smell, and size and shape of leaves. We expect to grow over 20sspecies of different species of Ocimum.
Apart from direct gardening and planting Green Ahalia programme also support and execute awareness programmes and provides technical support to other organisations especially schools. Several programmes concerning environmental protection and promotion are conducted. Lectures by eminent personalities are one such action that has helped reinforce Green Ahalia programme. Every action of Green Ahalia is guided by the Chairman and management to take it to the best fitting green protocol organisation. We expect the programme to achieve the centre of excellence status in making the campus a much sought after destination for learning and research on ecosystem related aspects.