200-Year-Old Church Adds 120 Tree Saplings To It’s Lungs

Around the time the COP26 Climate Change Conference deliberated in Scotland  on measures to control climate change, St Andrew’s Church, a 200-year-old Indian church in Chennai with Scottish roots, increased it’s green cover planting 120 tree saplings on it’s 9 acre campus, contributing it’s mite for the cause. 
Kick starting the afforestation drive, the Presbyter Rev Isaac Johnson said “The first tree wasn’t planted but created. God has given us this beautiful premises in the heart of the city and we want to be good stewards.” 
The church, fondly called The Kirk, is already a home for 154 trees on the campus. It  has now engaged a horticultural professional, Mr Ranjan Paul, who says the campus would turn into a colourful lung space in 3 years with a good mix of 5 blooming trees and a  green belt.
The plan is “two fold” explained Mr Paul to tellmystory.in. “One is to have a green belt along the northern side and to add a touch of colour, with “blooming trees”.”
The green belt he adds  “would  grow 25 feet high in three years; it would cut noise and dust pollution from the Poonamalle High Road besides releasing good amount of oxygen.”
The flowering tree saplings planted include  Cassia Fistula popularly called Golden Shower (yellow flower), Pride of India (lavender) and African Tulip (reddish or Fanta orange). The green belt would be made of  just  Conocarpus, a drought resistant species.
This initiative would comply with the 30% green cover norm. On the long term vision, Mr Dulip Thangasamy, Secretary of The Kirk Session said, “We would like to turn this into a model horticultural spot. We would replicate this at our outreach centres too, wherever we have land”. He added “We are interested in the sustainability aspect of earth as it is Biblical.”
Dr Prasanna Rao and his family plant a sapling of African Tulip in memory of his late wife.
It was an emotional moment for the family of Dr Prasanna Rao, a member of this church, as his family planted a sapling of African Tulip  in memory of his wife Premanjali Rao, who passed away last year. She was an Elder in the church. Dr Rao said “We are so happy to remember her. In her memory we will have a tree where we can remember her throughout our lives.”
Known for its flora and fauna, the congregation is passionate about preserving and nurturing the ecosystem. The Kirk has a Garden Committee that takes care of the campus vegetation. The church also celebrates Environment Sunday every year. 
Members are happy about the green push. Already professionals have begun work on making the trees have a larger canopy. “We need to maintain our campus professionally to make it look it’s best. We have made a start.” says Ms Abha Appasamy, part of the Garden Committee. 
Talking about the challenges, D Justin Ranjit Karunakaran, another member said “With just four gardeners, pruning  trees and maintaining the greenery on the nine acre campus is a challenge.”
Built in 1821 for worship by Scottish community in the then Madras, St Andrew’s Church celebrated its bi-centenary in February this year. 
Known for its Georgian and Neo-classical architecture, the edifice with the tallest steeple in the city stands on the banks of the River Cooum, on a unique foundation made of 150 wells, filled with stones and sand. Major Thomas Fiott De Havilland was the architect. 
The church also reaches out to communities around offering rural health care,  special education, vocational training for women and those with special needs among others.

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