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'Green Man' Mantu Hait - the Bengal lawyer behind the creation of an urban forest

21 March, 2023 10:28:12
'Green Man' Mantu Hait - the Bengal lawyer behind the creation of an urban forest

Song of trees, sprouting of new leaves, swaying of branches --- fragile ecosystems affected only by human greed. That’s why and how we have destroyed forests, made the Earth less green and more polluted. On this International Day of Forests, here is the story of a man from Kolkata who single-handedly built a whole urban forest and brought back butterflies and birds. The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. On this day, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.

GB celebrates the day with an interview with Mantu Hait, the Green Man from Kolkata

Mantu Hait is a lawyer of Alipore Judges Court, but he has another feather to his cap. He is the man behind creating the 0.25 sq km of urban forest in Chetla-Alipore area. He hails from Amtala originally, and the greenery around turned him to a nature lover. This Green Man loves to bird-watching and wildlife photography and often travels to Sunderbans, his favourite bird hot-spot

Trees of the forest

• How did the idea of creating an urban forest come up?

The idea of creating the forest came up one day when I saw a few trees dying, some being felled, some illegally cut and their logs stolen. The ecosystem of the Chetla area where I live, was getting affected. This was an area that once was a habitat for butterflies and birds. That very habitat was getting spoilt leading to the diminishing population of the fauna. 

A path through the forest

• Since when did you start planting the trees?

I was planning since 2000 on a small scale but finally started the planting operation in 2010. By then most of the land around that had big trees, bushes and shrubs were being turned into barren grounds and at times empty play areas. 

Golden Jackal

1. 200-250 species of trees.
2. 50-60 species of birds including pied sterling, black-hooded oriole, black-rumped flameback woodpecker, chestnut tailed sterling and brown shrike.
3. 10 species of mammals including palm civets, golden jackals, squirrels and mongooses.
4. More than 70 species of butterflies including Mottled Emigrant and many more.

• How many trees are there now in the urban forest?

In 2020,It was reported that , there are more than 1000 big trees. Around 1km of the area is covered with uncountable shrubs and bushes and more than 300 specific species. There are more than 60 bird species, 100 butterfly species, 10 mammal species, which include golden jackal and common mongoose.

Palm Civets

• Who all helped you in this planting endeavour? 

Initially, I had started this with my friends and later my NGO, Prakriti Samsad, my friend’s NGO, Nature Mates, and everyone in the locality joined us. 

Shrubs and climbers of the forest

• Do you feel there is need for more such urban forests in Kolkata? If so why?

Yes, not only in Kolkata, but such forests are required in all towns and cities in our country for oxygen replenishment and maintaining ecological balance. Such areas once created also need to be protected, which can be done by creating awareness. It is the people of the locality who will protect the natural treasure. 

Pied Starling

• Your future plans and how you plan to protect this forest and spread the idea of creating more urban forests?

I do have plans to build such forests in other places of Kolkata and in other parts of the country. I may not be physically present there, but can share ideas of how one can do it. Awareness should be spread among various strata of the society, specially in schools and colleges. The importance of trees should be understood by all, only then it can be conserved and a healthy environment will be created. Despite being a lawyer by profession, I work on my off days/ holidays. I love calling myself a nature lover and not an environmentalist.



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