What is Miyawaki based Forest?
- Miyawaki is a Japanese technique of growing dense plantations in a short time. This method originated in Japan and is now increasingly adopted in other parts of the world. It is named after the Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki.
- With this method of plantation, an urban forest can grow within a short span of 20-30 years while a conventional forest takes around 200-300 years to grow naturally.
- In the Miyawaki technique, various native species of plants are planted close to each other so that the greens receive sunlight only from the top and grow upwards rather than sideways. As a result, the plantation becomes approximately 30 times denser, grows 10 times faster and becomes maintenance-free after a span of 3 years.
- The native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers namely shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
- The quality of soil is analyzed water retention capacity, and nutrients in it, is mixed with it.
- A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density of three to five saplings per square meter.
- The ground should be covered with a thick layer of mulch. These trees lack some qualities of natural forests, such as medicinal properties and the ability to bring rain.
- Such fast-growing plantations can be used for wood lots, recreational uses like bird watching, bushwalking, and wildflower appreciation.
A Reality Check
- As per an estimation by Miyawaki, who has created 1,500 such forests across Japan, India, South East Asia and Brazil, trees in a dense plantation grow 10 times faster than most other plants and result in 30 times denser vegetation in just two to three years.
- In theory, the method offers a holistic solution to several urban woes, including the heat island effect, air and noise pollution and land crunch for greenery.
- This afforestation method is fast gaining attention across the country, from civic bodies and forest department officials to private groups and nonprofits.
- Eg: Media reports suggest that Hyderabad has the largest Miyawaki forest, spread over 4 hectares. In Rajasthan, Bhuvanesh Ojha has planted eight Miyawaki forests.
- Among the latest adopters of this concept is the Delhi Municipal Corporation, which in May 2022 announced the creation of 20 such mini-forests in the city.
- Some experts suggest that cities like Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad that are cramped with concrete jungle, Miyawaki forests are a great way of not only achieving
quick greenery but also mitigating carbon emissions, purifying air with more oxygen and restoring soil and biodiversity.
What are the concerns related to the Miyawaki method?
- A Woodland at Best
- Miyawaki plantation does not fit the definition of natural forest, especially in India, which has hundreds of forest types spread across geographies.
- Natural forest formation process is slow as trees grow at their pace, enabling the soil conditions to change, microbes, earthworms and insects to flourish and host a wide range of biodiversity. A natural forest also allows a food chain to be established but such is not the case with Miyawaki technique.
- People who have implemented this method mention that the number of reptiles has increased in their area as predators such as mongoose or birds of prey cannot enter the dense vegetation.
- Can it Restore Soil?
- It is found that the Miyawaki technique is an effective solution for rural places like Punjab, which has less forest cover and is the best solution to bring back nutrients and life to the soil, damaged by excessive use of pesticides and insecticides during farming.
- Such plantations in arid areas like Punjab and Rajasthan will require copious quantities of water, prompting more groundwater extraction, unless wastewater is utilized for watering the saplings.
- Besides, in case of a drought or intense condition, Miyawaki forests in arid areas can become more susceptible to catching fire. In such a scenario, all the carbon captured by the plants will go up in smoke along with the immense amount of water and money invested in the forest.
- Experts suggest that leaving the land alone or introducing natural ecological restoration will help the environment in multiple ways and enable more diversity than Miyawaki woodland. A degrading land can start taking shape by hosting biodiversity in three to five years and sequestering more carbon, which is the objective of tree plantation.
- An Urban Fade
- As per studies carried out by environmentalists in Delhi, they highlighted that creating a Miyawaki forest can only be seen as an urban phenomenon as a quick green patch in a relatively short time is the only real purpose.
- The study highlights that if the objective is to restore a degraded tract or in any sense to add richness or diversity to a habitat, then Miyawaki forests are not even close to being a solution
- Hence, Miyawaki forests are a fad that will run their course and die out.
- There is a need to better understand the local ecology before undertaking such greening exercises as it will take time to understand long-term effects of Miyawaki forests on ecology.