Dr Dhara Sangvi from Ahmedabad, who recently visited Kochi after two years, was disappointed at first to see the towering concrete metro pillars in the city where there were beautiful avenues. However, the sight of a metro pillar at Kalamassery with vertical gardens was pleasing to her, and the joy doubled when she took a ride in an autorickshaw, which had potted plants instead of the usual over-the-top decorations.
The two initiatives are part of Kochi going green from the grass-root level by including autorickshaw drivers as well as incorporating plants as part of metro infrastructure.
As Dhara says, “Development is necessary but it often hurts nature and disturbs the ecosystem. With sustainable development plans that Kochi has adopted, the greenery that the city is known for would still be intact.” We explore these novel initiatives that the city has been recently witnessing:
Vertical garden by Kochi Metro Rail
Every sixth pillar of Kochi Metro would have a vertical garden as part of the green campaign by Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), and the pillars have already started to go green in Kalamassery.
Reshmi C R, head of corporate communications at KMRL, says, “The vertical garden at the Kalamassery station is part of the station beautification project. The intial plan, which will be implemented in two weeks, will see 100 out of the 780 pillars hosting vertical gardens.”
The highlight of the initiative is that biodegradable waste from the city is being used instead of soil. “The plants, which are contained on coir beds, will be watered using drip irrigation technology,” she says, adding that the company will be using a patented tech and has also tied up with Swacch Bharath Mission for the implementation.
The green initiative is themed on Western Ghats, and hence, various endangered flora and fauna of the area will be depicted in the 17 metro stations. “In a few stations, like Aluva, we will also plant some of the endangered saplings. Meanwhile, the Edapally station is dedicated to the spices of Kochi, hence pepper will be the hanging plant at the station,” Reshmi says.
According to the officials, the initiative would improve the aesthetic appeal of the pillars while also reducing the carbon footprint in the city. “We are mainly using flowering plants, which will eliminate harmful gases in the air caused by vehicle pollution,” she adds.
Autorickshaws too go green
With an aim to promote responsible tourism, tour operator P J Varghese and his team have fixed potted plants in 1,000 autorickshaws in the city. Medicinal plants such as tulsi and panikoorkka were distributed and fixed adjacent to the driver’s seat as part of their initiative.
“Our only demand was to pour some water while the drivers are quenching their thirst. We chose autorickshaws because they are the major mode of transportation in Kochi and hence also a big contributor to vehicle pollution,” says Varghese, who with the support of Tourism Department has been working for his ‘Ente Keralam Haritha Keralam’ dream.
As for the auto drivers, Varghese says the initiative is making them “more responsible”. Driver Vineesh Vijayan, who rides in Ernakulam Boat Jetty Area, says that the panikoorka plant has had a calming effect on his life.
“I feel rejuvenated and those who take a ride in my auto, ask me about it. From tourists to homemakers, people find it interesting and the plant has also inspired many to actually go green,” he says.
The green Collectorate
It is not just the vehicles that are turning green in the city as even administrative offices have joined the bandwagon.
The tables of the officials at the District Collectorate now have a medicinal plant. Varghese says, “We have distributed a pen stand attached to the potted plant, which is of the medicinal variety. The feedback from the government officials have been positive as they say the flowers and plants are a refreshing site amid the mundane files.”