Nizhal is the new name of green revolution: Here is a group that is reinventing space near you

Pillars behind Nizhal | Image courtesy:

Nizhal has been in the news for more than one green event. Nizhal, which means ‘shade’ in Tamil, is a movement started by a group of environment enthusiasts based in Chennai and is revolutionizing tree protection.

Nizhal has been doggedly, since its inception in September 2005, trying to get back all of Chennai’s precious tree species to make the city a green feast to the eye. Fighting against the extinction of tree species, Nizhal is bent on bringing back correct systems of urban greening and the rise in trees in the urban areas of Chennai.

Recently the group launched ‘Living Landmarks of Chennai’, a book that gives specifics of trees suffering from the danger of extinction. The book lists tress of historical and cultural significance, giving one a good idea of what lies in the Chennai terrain and what is being lost forever.

Nizhal has many drives that it conducts regularly, to not just teach people about the importance of trees and the relationship man shares with nature, but most importantly to involve people in the efforts to green the city. Wholly run by public funds and volunteers this group is bringing the green revolution back on track.

Image courtesy: Nizhal
Image courtesy: Nizhal

Shobha Menon, one of the founders of Nizhal, shared the aims and goals of the movement with Folomojo. We bring you this interview with one of those who is making Nizhal a successful venture.

1. You did mention to us that the movements are run wholly by volunteers. Do you enjoy sponsorship from any organization, company etc?

We are funded by public donations from friends and well-wishers and corporates, who support our work. We do not take donations in foreign currency, as a policy.

2. You have begun projects such as ‘Free the Tree’, and ‘Tree-Walks’. Are there any other new activities in the offing?

Seedling to Sapling is another program where residents in communities are encouraged to adopt special saplings and take care till they grow into 3ft tall saplings. At that point, we take them back so that they can be planted in schools and colleges, or in other public places.

Mugam Marum Marangal, where school children adopt a tree, observe its seasonal variations and changes, document and share poems, and questions on their tree, is another.

Students working at the Kottupuram Tree Park   |  Image courtesy: Nizhal
Students working at the Kottupuram Tree Park | Image courtesy: Nizhal

3. Has the book ‘Living Landmarks of Chennai’ been made available in other states? What are the expectations from the book?

The book is only available in Chennai, in Tamil and English. The plan is to go onto the next stage and protect the landmark trees in public spaces. Just being aware is not important…we need to act for the special trees. The next step is to get sponsors to help create name boards for the trees. We are sure, that will get communities around, to be more protective of the landmarks among them!

4. Can you tell us the names and some details of the founders of Nizhal?

Our Chief Advisor was the late G Dattatri, first Chief Town Planner in the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority. Dr Sekar Raghavan, known as the Rain Man of the South, was the one who got us on the journey’s first step. All our work is due to a wonderful committed team of members and volunteers who believe in sustained work for the cause. Who the Founders were is really not so important.

5. What is your message to people towards Nizhal?

We believe that it is for citizens in their own best interests to stand up for trees around them and care for them. Look at what each of you can do, and you can make a world of a difference!

Image courtesy: Nizhal
Image courtesy: Nizhal

Well, that’s a great start for people in other cities to take notes from and up their own green locales. This movement allows for us to be responsible about our own environment, through its community park models, taken care of by residents around the park.

The Kotturpuram Tree Park is a standing example of a waste land tuned fertile tree space with the help of volunteers, students and community members. Today the park is the proud owner of over 150 indigenous tree species. There are many such projects that have seen a successful end under Nizhal’s efforts.

Earlier days at Kotturpuram Tree Park  |  Image courtesy: Nizhal
Earlier days at Kotturpuram Tree Park | Image courtesy: Nizhal

Are you worried about to how start your own Nizhal in your city? All you have to do is contact them and they will help you get your greening efforts moving.

Nizhal is changing the scene of the cluttered, suffocating and dingy urban streets of Chennai. What are you going to do about your neighborhood? Well you might have to begin soon if you want your city to look like this!

Image courtesy: Nizhal
Image courtesy: Nizhal