Home / Biodiversity Protection / Can Miyawaki replace NATURAL FORESTS?

Jasmine Singh, architect and urban planner based in Hyderabad writes about Miyawaki forests and urban greening.

Living in concrete jungles, the idea of green jungles seems like a dream that once was. The Miyawaki Method of plantation however, might give hope to city dwellers who dream of sustainability. 

Invented by and named after Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, the ‘Miyawaki Method’ is a technique to grow forests. Under this approach, dozens of native species are planted in the same area, close to each other, which ensures that the plants receive sunlight only from the top, and grow upwards rather than sideways.

The technique compresses layers of a forest – shrubs, trees, canopies – on small plots of land, turning them into tiny forests. It helps to create a forest in under 10 years while the current conventional methods take about 100 years.

Miyawaki involves identification of native trees of the region and dividing these into four layers- shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy. Quality of their soil is then analysed and nutrient rich biomass which would help enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients in it is added to it. 

It is claimed that these forests grow 10 times faster and become 30 times denser and 100 times more biodiverse than those planted through conventional methods. (By planting trees the Miyawaki way, Mumbai won’t undo the damage of deforestation (scroll.in)

Financially speaking, a completely maintenance-free, wild and native forest is built after the first three years. The close proximity of saplings allows the root systems to remain connected with each other, to help in their upkeep of immunity such that no fertiliser or pesticide is required to keep them healthy and growing. (Role of Miyawaki forests in mitigating urban heat island effects (mongabay.com)) 

On the other side of the coin, experts say that Miywaki cannot be termed as forests. They believe that such fast-growing plantations are actually “woodlots”, which refer to a parcel of a woodland capable of small-scale production of forest products such as wood fuel, sap for maple syrup, pulpwood, as well as recreational uses like bird watching, bushwalking. 

Several environmentalists have questioned the efficacy of this method as it accelerates the growth of trees- as it is not a good idea to force plants to photosynthesize this quickly. Miyawaki forests are no substitute for natural ones: Experts – The Economic Times (indiatimes.com)The Japanese solution is also being used as an excuse to justify deforestation. 

A forest is not a set of trees, it is an entire ecosystem including the insects, the birds, and the ground vegetation. The entire biodiversity that helps replenish the water and mineral cycle and the biodiversity around it. The Miyawaki forests cannot even replace or serve 10 % of the role that the original forests play. It is an adjustment at best. Ecology cannot be established artificially. It could lead to a slight drop in temperatures or be a green relief for the eye, but that’s about it. By planting trees the Miyawaki way, Mumbai won’t undo the damage of deforestation (scroll.in) Old-growth forests are millions of years old and can never be replaced- they are crucial to maintain our ecological balance. 

Roughly costing around Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 60,000 to create a tiny forest of 100 square metre this is a costly method. (By planting trees the Miyawaki way, Mumbai won’t undo the damage of deforestation (scroll.in) Given that urban land is usually in a degraded state, the cost of preparing the soil and land can be high. Latika Thukral from I Am Gurgaon explains – ”The actual process is 20 times more expensive than a simple native species plantation. It’s not a true forest and very resource intensive. Biodiversity Park, Wazirabad Forest, Badhshahpur forest all have become forest with minimum intervention with limited funds and watering”.

Rajeev Suri, a seasoned environmentalist, feels that as a time tested model, the traditional system of green buffer zones is far more sustainable than new emerging concepts such as the Miyawaki model. ‘This method requires an array of high crown/medium crown trees, medicinal plants/ shrubs all planted together which may not be readily available in local nurseries. Further such plantation requires greater aftercare in comparison. Nature left alone offers more than if we spoon feed it with these commercial techniques. Moreover plantations are not only about trees, they are about ecosystems and ecosystems cannot be manufactured’ he adds. 

Going forward, creating Miyawaki forests cannot be viewed as a solution in isolation, as nothing compares to the natural growth of forests, but it plays a small and significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change. The method can enable densely packed cities to create small patches of forest that are beneficial for the adjoining areas and wildlife. 

Apart from placing resources toward conserving pre-existing Indian forests, there needs to be a shift from the plantation for ornamental landscapes to creating biodiverse native habitats in private as well as public projects, in an effort to fight heat island effects and groundwater recharge. Having/promoting biodiversity doesn’t mean that you have to grow an Amazonian structured forest in your backyard 😄

Stress has to be on no use of chemical fertilizers, growing natives, responsible use of resources, bringing down carbon footprint, consciously working to conserve soil, using resources ranked high in sustainability and working towards carbon negative business models to promote biodiversity.

Solutions are available, one must have the drive to seek them!

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *