The Miyawaki response

November 14, 2021

The success of Miyawaki forests has a huge contribution from community ownership

The Miyawaki response

With a rapid and unprecedented increase in human population, the demands on natural resources increased manifolds. The demand-supply gap compelled humans to deviate from their initial strategy. The first deviation came in the form of exploration of untouched resources; the second came in the form of advancement of technology. While this seemed necessary, it turned out to be detrimental for the rest of the inhabitants of the planet. Humans were not far behind in suffering from the disasters that followed.

Rising temperatures due to the growing needs of energy and competition for space led to an addition of carbon producing units while also decreasing natural carbon sinks, due to deforestation and coral bleaching. The global temperatures have risen at an average of 0.08 degree Celsius each decade since the 1880s. The results can no longer be ignored. Mass extinction is under way; sea levels have risen beyond the point of no return, according to reports; global wildfires, outbreaks and heatwaves have become common occurrences.

The climate variations caused by global increase in temperature are a time bomb. Non-negotiable action is now required. The good news is that individuals, communities and countries are responding. Some are taking bold decisions to transform lives. One such action that has become quite popular in recent years is the Miyawaki Forest technique, developed by a Japanese botanist, Dr Akira Miyawaki. The technique grows an urban forest in a small area within ten years compared to a usual forest that requires at least thirty years. The method is considered a quick and effective solution to the urban heat island effect. It is being globally recognised and applied.

While many are set on planting saplings for the environment, purposeful and owned plantation is still not a very common idea.

While safeguarding the natural tree cover is very important, creating more forests is essential for providing large carbon sinks. With less land available in crowding cities, urban forests are considered an alternative that not only lessen the city’s temperature but also act as a biodiversity haven, atmospheric regulator and groundwater recharge source. Despite its initial cost for preparing the rather degraded urban land, the many benefits of this method have made it popular in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and India. Under the umbrella of the Billion Tree Tsunami Project, Pakistan has also adopted this technique for its major cities by planning to create more than 50 native urban forests that are geo-tagged and monitored.

With altered climatic conditions resulting in torrential rainfalls and heatwaves, this method is being hailed as a game changer. Many such forests have brought back native flora and fauna of the region, while also having an overall impact in regulating climate and pollution in the surrounding areas. However, the initial cost and the principle behind the technique is a cause of worry for some. The opponents argue that for a water scarce country, this method will be an added pressure on the already receding water resources. They also point out that the technique was developed for tropical climate. Recent studies have shown that the delay in growth is three to six years depending upon the climate type. The key is preparing the soil well. This makes it costly, but the results justify the cost.

Although, the government has started campaigns on an institutional level, ground awareness for community engagement is still lacking. The success of Miyawaki forests in other countries has required a huge contribution from community ownership. Many urban forests are initiated and managed by local NGOs and CBOs. But the general populace still needs to catch up on the idea. While many are set on planting saplings for the environment, purposeful and owned plantation is still not very common.

The author is a nature enthusiast, climate crisis mobiliser and researcher. She is currently working as a media person to create environmental awareness.

The Miyawaki response