It started out with a visit to understand the general soil conditions, availability of water and human resources for planting and subsequent care and maintenance. The extent of the site was 85 Ha, with prisons covering about 55 Ha. The site was generally flat and covered by red gravel with clayey loam. Water was drawn from the Metro water system and used for drinking and for other purposes including gardening. Nizhal proposed a water recycling project. Basic greening was carried out by planting Pungam, Nelli, Neem, Koyya, Coconut and other common species. The planting scheme included spot planting, i.e. planting of trees in specifically selected spots and row planting along the boundary walls after leaving a buffer. Cluster planting was also done in select open areas. Small patches of kitchen garden already existed. Additional patches for growing of vegetables were identified.
Nizhal also proposed the initiation of a composting program with the leaf litter and food wastes, a plant nursery, and training for the inmates in horticulture.
Nizhal's volunteers soon got to work, with the involvement of the inmates. A key volunteer was (and continues to be) Dr Babu, a marine biologist with a flair for community greening.
Within a few months the transformation was obvious! The campus is now visibly greener, with rows and rows of avarai, karamani and kothavarankai, to name a few of the vegetables grown. The prisoners have harvested 270 kgs of okra and 170kg of radish. Lots of chillies too! Horticulture seems to have taken the fancy of most of the prisoners, with several of them expressing a desire to become gardners/ horticulturists upon their release.
pictures courtesy Nizhal volunteers.