Greener rooftops

Ahmed Shatil Alam reveals the many programmes of Green Savers, an organisation that is promoting gardening in the country

It was not a usual start for Dhaka based green activist Ahsan Rony to become a saviour of environment.  He may rather be called a rooftop gardening activist as he was not very fond of plantation much, growing up, he never planned to do anything in this regard.

But Dhaka these days — known for its overpopulation, traffic congestion, pollution and deforestation, taking steps improving the city environment is deemed necessary. Rony founded an organisation, Green Savers, a leading organisation among others, that has been promoting indoor plantation or precisely rooftop gardening. The organisation has created quite a buzz through its unique features and services among the citizens. Currently it has been involved in creating awareness among the city dwellers towards plantation and forming a greener capital.

Since its initiation, the organisation over the last six years, has been directly or indirectly involved in plantation of around one lakh plants. Sharing the story of how the award-winning organisation was suddenly formed, Rony says, ‘In 2010, I was studying at the department of anthropology, University of Dhaka. Back then, I used to tutor school students. One day, I asked one of my students about his thoughts on gardening. He replied that gardening was the job of a gardener.’

The answer disappointed Rony a bit and he decided to present his student with some of his favourite plants. ‘Soon, there were fruits in the plants I gave him. My student became really excited and motivated about gardening and somehow he got popular among his fellow schoolmates and teachers’, he shares.

Few days later, Rony was invited to give a presentation at a Dhanmondi based English medium school on rooftop gardening. But he did know much about the topic; therefore, he searched on the internet and gathered more information to prepare himself. The presentation, however, delighted the parents, students and teachers.

After his presentation, many parents who became interested in gardening started to contact him. They wanted to have their own rooftop gardens and some of them started buying plants through him. Rony started outsourcing the plants from the sellers to the parents and thus started to receive a lot of orders. In the process, he started earning money.

‘Back then I did not only sell the plants rather used to go to the buyers’ houses and help them in gardening by providing information on medicines and tips for growing the plants,’ he says. Certainly, being overburdened, he hired a person to help with the works. He realised he could turn it into something more meaningful.

‘So I founded Green Savers, a non-profit organisation that works with urban gardening…and as I came from a farmer family, gardening was may be in my blood,’ he adds.

He tells New Age Xtra that there are about 45 lakh rooftops in Dhaka city, but only 2 per cent of them have any greenery. ‘In Dhaka, you will find 17 places named after trees were planted there like Kalabagan and Taltola. Green Savers has a unique activity as they plant the same kind of trees in the places which they were known for,’ he says. For such plantation they usually contact the government entities such as schools, offices, etc.

Besides, Green Saver’s oxygen bank and plant’s doctor services have gained huge popularity among the citizens. Oxygen banks, placed in 440 schools across the country, are boxes for instant fund collection for planting trees. The students of those schools save some money from their Tiffin money in the boxes and from those savings they can buy plants and do gardening at their schools with the technical support from Green Savers.

Besides, the organisation also provides tree clinic services. A group of 13 bicycle-riding doctors provide any sort of plant treatment services by attending door to door. ‘These tree doctors will answer to your call, ring your door bells and treat your diseased plants,’ says Rony.

For the services, they charge Tk 30 to Tk 500 based on distance, time and care requirements and anyone can avail these services through online or just by a phone call. They have an app called Plant Doctors, through which anyone can send pictures of dying or affected plants, upon receiving them, they render their services by going to the residences, with a payment of minimal charge.

The organisation, so far, planted trees on 3,000 rooftops in the city and planning to make it ten per cent of all the rooftops in Dhaka.

Rony also shares that besides these with the support of a local organisation they are running a programme named Plant for Planet at 17 renowned schools in Dhaka where students can get a chance to plant a tree at a designated drum collected from the sponsor company. The children get the chance through a competition and then they draw their desired plants’ picture over the drum/pot and then they can get the chance to plant that plant at the pot.

He also informs that they provide a different service to the Dhaka-based people who move to other districts during Eid Vacations for quite a few days. ‘During the vacations, people remain away from their home and therefore cannot properly take care of their plants…and in that case they can call us and handover these plants to us. We can look after these plants till their return,’ he says.