Meet the tree counter!

Last Updated: Mon, Jun 15, 2009 12:44 hrs
Dr Ramesh Madav

He revels in creating inventories of trees and keeps a tab on the number of trees in an area.
Meet Dr Ramesh Madav, Founder & CEO of Terracon Ecotech Pvt. Ltd whose vision is to maintain a census of all trees in the country. And to aid him in his mission,  his company, Terracon Ecotech, has developed an indigenous software  for maintaining a desktop inventory of trees in a particular area.
When asked why, he responds: ``You can even starve for 10 days but can you live without oxygen for a minute?``
An authority of tree census in India, Dr Madav has successfully tested the most modern census methods, using GPS and GIS technologies.  He works closely with corporate and civic bodies to undertake environment-friendly solutions to save trees.
Having completed the tree census for 8 Maharashtra Municipal corporations, Madav and his team are in talks with the a few others across the country.
In a free-wheeling chat with K. Sreedevi, Dr Ramesh talks about his passion and reiterates: ``We need to give back not only to the society, but also to the nature.``

What is tree census?
Tree census is a process counting of trees in a particular area, most of the time in a municipality. Like a human census, tree census also has to be done once in every five years. Terracon goes beyond just counting of the trees.
We collate a lot of other information such as species, height, girth, botanical name, age, health, Canopy, etc which makes the tree census unique. All this information is captured using a GPS device and stored in a special software develop by us.  The tree census helps in creating a base line data of the number and locations of the trees in a corporation, which can be used for various purposes.
How did you hit upon the idea of tree census?
Having worked in the environment business for over 20 years, in the year 2001, I came to know about such an activity.  Urbanisation has forced all of us to think only about ourselves and not our surroundings. Trees that form an important part of our living more than water, have always been neglected. You can starve for 10 days, but you cannot stay without oxygen for more than 30 seconds. In spite of this, we have taken these trees for granted. I personally feel that trees are the most important and essentials commodity in our lives and we must care for them.
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How does GIS technology help?
The GPS/GIS technology helps in capturing the exact location of the tree on latitude and longitude. You can`t get more accurate than this, and accuracy is the key to any census.
We have developed a software which collates this data at a field level then transferred to the ward level and then to the city level. This tedious process helps us get the accurate count and location of the trees, which thereafter can be managed by the tree authority in the municipal corporations for checking illegal felling of trees.

Why is the tree census important?
There are many reasons. It helps us understand the bio-diversity of trees in the particular space; it gives an of the green cover of the area and it helps us understand the ratio between the population of people and population of tress which can further be analysed by the pollution in the specified location.

What are the key revelations of the tree census?
The ratio between human population and tree population is the key thing. Thereafter, we can add trees in the wards, where the ratio is poor.  We also come to know the availability of various species of trees in the city. For e.g. we discovered in our 2008 census that Mumbai has only two Rudrakasha trees. There are on an average about 20-30 species of trees in many cities which have only one or two such trees. Once identified, the corporation can then protect such trees or may even plan to plant more such trees, improving the bio-diversity of the city.

Where is the project being implemented?
The recent testing was successfully done and the Thane Municipal Corporation would be the first city in the country to have such a tree census. We are also in talks with the municipal corporations of Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Vadodara, Surat, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad to do similar tree census, which is actually a boon for the corporations. When done, all these cities will have the top of line gree inventory management system for their respective corporations.

Do we have an example of such studies elsewhere too?
We have successfully completed the tree census for the municipal corporations of Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane (2002 and Now 2009) Nanded, Mira Bhayender, Kalyan Dombivili, Navghar Manikpur, Nashik etc.

How did you become interested in environmental projects?
After completing my MSc( Agri), I took up my doctoral research in environment science. I think environment is the most precious thing on this earth and we all have to take care of it. We need to give back not only to the society, but also to the nature. I have a passion for this subject.

What in your view, is the major environmental threat faced by India?
Our forest cover is fast diminishing; it was only 20.60% in 2008 compared to about 37% in 1990. The repercussion from this drastic fall in forest cover is already seen in rising floods, tsunami, hike in day temperature, weak monsoons, longer summersand no winter.
For example a city like Bangalore which used to have an annual average temperature of 22 degrees till mid eighties, today has an average of 30 degrees. Floods in Bihar are severe every year and same is the case of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.
The corporate world and the government have to do a lot in the field of environment and sustainable development, instead of just talking about them at seminars.

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