Biodiversity is a national treasure, says 'Greenman' Viral Desai

By Siddhi Jain (IANSlife)

Surat-based entrepreneur Viral Desai, who has earned the moniker 'Greenman of Gujarat' due to his contributions to the environment since a young age, says that forests and biodiversity are indispensable to development, and are national treasures to be protected.

The environmentalist has recently been felicitated by the Gujarat government for his contributions at the state-level 72nd Van Mahotsava organised in Valsad. Desai had also announced the staging of a 'Satyagraha against Environment Pollution' as part of Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav marking 75 years of India's independence.

Bio-diversity-Green-manAs a part of efforts to conserve the environment, Desai has contributed to the plantation of more than 1.60 lakh saplings at different places in south Gujarat. His most significant contribution, however, is the transformation of the Udhna railway station in Surat.

He has adopted the railway station and transformed it into the number one green station in the country. The railway station is an interactive one, with more than 50 paintings and a green gallery dedicated to promoting tree plantation and biodiversity.

The Udhna railway station is also home to the country's first Live Pulwama Martyr's Memorial, where large trees have been planted in a row as a mark of respect for the 40 bravehearts who lost their lives. More than 3,500 plants known as oxygen bombs for their ability to produce a large amount of oxygen have also been planted at the station. It also houses a sparrow zone, where more than 400 sparrows are living.

The first has also emerged as a model of urban ecosystem restoration, where a variety of insects, birds, squirrels, and reptiles are living in natural surroundings in the middle of the city. While the UN launched the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration as a global rallying cry to heal the planet earlier this year, Desai's efforts have created a model of urban ecosystem restoration a year before that. The Udhna railway station is much smaller than the Surat railway station, but it ranks way ahead as far as green railway stations are concerned.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear how important Oxygen and our immune system are for our bodies! Trees and nature play the most important role in increasing oxygen, reducing pollution and strengthening our immunity. But unfortunately due to the lack of green cover, the air quality index is poor and the urban areas have many pollutants present in the air."

"Our entire planet is facing a threat from extreme Climate crisis and global warming. Let us not lose hope in the face of these statistics and dire situation," says Desai.

The first urban forest of Indian Railways has also come up in the premises of Udhna railway station. Spread over 19,000 square feet, more than 1,400 native tree species have been grown in the forest, which has been named Shahid Smriti Van. The site used to be a waste dumping site once, but it has been transformed into an oxygen chamber in just one-and-a-half years.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at [email protected])