Did you know that leaf fall is an adaptation by trees to conserve water during the summer months? Around November to March is the time when deciduous trees shed leaves, and a large quantity of leaf litter is generated. Trees lose water through the leaves by the process of evapo-transpiration.
The ground remains covered with these fallen leaves. They form a layer over the soil, protecting it from the harsh sun during summer. Due to this, the soil retains moisture. Various insects too find shelter under these leaves. There is an ecosystem created out there, sustained by these brown leaves.
Some proportion of the nutrients that a tree absorbs is present in the fallen leaves. In the monsoon, leaves decompose, and nutrients are returned to the soil, thus completing the cycle.
In an urban setup, this natural, essential process has turned into a nightmare.
In cities, a majority of the soils are capped with buildings, roads, pavements, etc. Even when open soil is available, heaps of leaf litter do not fit into our idea of aesthetics. There is just no scope for natural decomposition of leaf litter.
Burning seems a convenient way to get rid of the leaf litter.
Burning of dry leaves is banned in many countries. It leads to air pollution. It is a major health as well as fire hazard. The smoke contains several toxic particles and gases.
Burning of dry leaves generates a large quantity of particulates that can reach deep in lung tissue and cause
· Chest pain
· Shortness of breath
· Long-term respiratory problems
For the people who suffer from asthma or other breathing disorders, leaf burning is extremely hazardous.
Complete burning results in production of carbon dioxide, while carbon monoxide is released from incomplete burning, such as with smouldering leaf piles. Carbon monoxide is absorbed in blood where it reduces oxygen carrying capacity of the Red Blood Cells (RBCs). It also is one of the greenhouse gases.
So what can we do?
When we burn dry leaves, we not only create pollution but also destroy the valuable nutrients that should go back to the soil.
Hence Brown Leaf, a forum for nature-friendly solution for management of dry leaves.
Its vision is “Not a single dry leaf should be burnt in India”
Brown Leaf helps people manage dry leaves in an eco-friendly manner.
Brown Leaf advocates three options for management of dry leaves. Options are mentioned in the order of their priority.
Brown Leaf advises people to practice mulching and composting. If composting is not possible for some reason, or there is surplus quantity of dry leaves, then there is the option of donation. Anybody who has dry leaves in excess donates them to another who wants them.
Since its inception in February 2016, the Brown Leaf community has prevented more than 50,000 gunny bags of dry leaves from getting burnt in Pune city.
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