KICS Sharing Session #38
Conserving Slow Growing trees in a Fast Moving Economy
Observations from an experiment in Karnataka

Speaker: Chitra Krishnan

Date and Time: March 18, 2017, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Venue: CWS Conference Hall, 12-13-438, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017 


Why trees need to be conserved is a question with many scientific answers – carbon sequestration, temperature regulation, protection of soil from erosion etc. Where should trees be protected is a question on which scientific attitudes have been changing. Earlier it seemed that having “islands” of protected areas such as forests was enough. Now it is increasing felt that “it is not feasible to protect a few islands rich in biodiversity in the midst of degraded landscapes. The biodiversity-rich islands would be far more secure if a serious attempt is made to create a biodiversity friendly, ecologically restored matrix around them (Gadgil, 1994).” This reasonable argument implies that we need to consider conserving trees (or rather, biodiversity) in and around our villages and cities too.

That brings in the most challenging question, how can trees (and tree diversity) be conserved, given the fast moving economy? Is there a general answer? Can it be left to the local government authorities? Or experts? Or does it require the involvement of a large number of ordinary people? If so, is information and awareness enough to nudge people into conserving trees? Or does it require that we connect with trees – in our everyday lives? How much do popular social attitudes affect conservation?


The sharing session will begin with describing some native tree species of semi-arid parts of south India. It will then dwell on an attempt, over a period of about a year, by two small farmers to tackle dwindling tree-cover in their villages in Tumkur District, Karnataka. Their efforts included an intensive tree census, and, subsequent engagement with tree owners, the local community and the Forest Department to conserve existing trees. The risks involved in and the lessons from this attempt have a wider applicability that will be remarked upon. Lastly, a few other attempts in south India at tree conservation will be brought in.

Chitra Krishnan was trained as a civil engineer at IIT Madras following which she worked on water resource issues in rural Kerala before pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Engineering in USA. Her working stints in different rural contexts and an organic farm in the USA influenced her markedly in her research quests. She completed her PhD from IIT Delhi on the traditional irrigation system of South India (tanks and anicuts). Her research publications include “The State and Drought: Villagers’ Experiences” and “Irrigation Infrastructure: The Case of the Tungabhadra River”. She is currently practising dryland horticulture in Tumkur district, Karnataka and is involved in research studies looking at design and implementation issues of green infrastructure.

Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.