Crowdsourced data collection for legal activism

Environment support group in Bangalore is fighting a legal case against BBMP about tree planting. I got to know about this case late in the evening. From a friend who had read about my previous attempts at mapping the trees using ODK.

What we need Bangaloreans to do:
Please download the document accessible at ESG's website ( It has many sheets providing details of trees planted in different divisions. Pick one or more rows from any of these sheets that provides details of the number of trees planted and that have survived: in a neighborhood or locality or street. Count all trees that appear to be 6 years or younger. A thumb rule is to measure at chest height – 4.5 feet from ground – the circumference of the tree and it would be approximately 12 inches or less. Once you complete your count, please email your report to with the subject: Bangalore Tree Count (Its important you retain this subject). Your report should provide accurate details of the particular rows from the document you verified and how many young trees you found in that particular street, neighborhood, etc. Please also provide your full name, address and contact details.

We need this information latest by noon of Thursday, 24th April, giving us sufficient time to compile and present the findings to the Court. This could be a fun and healthy exercise for all. Please note that your assistance could go a long way in making Bangalore the greenest city in India, once more.

I didn't have much time but wanted to do something. I choose the smallest possible road to do the counting. But I didn't want to do just the counting but full tree survey. I created a new form, loaded on to the ODK on my phone and went to Malya road. I walked for almost an hour and about 1.5KMs to survey the whole road. I took a picture of each tree on the road/footpath, picture most saplings individually and geo tagged them. Sometimes saplings were so close to each other that I couldn't photograph them individually. I had to group them together. I didn't survey the tree/saplings in private areas or in pots.

Map of all the trees and saplings on Malya road. A subset of this, only saplings under the age of six was sent to ESG.

One of the saplings on Malya road which got mapped.

[mapsmarker marker="73"]
The path I took to walk around Malya road.

In two hours time I had an excel with all the details that needed to be sent to ESG. Unlike just the count of saplings, this one was verifiable proof. I hope it was useful to ESG. I think this is what modern technology enables the legal activists, crowd-sourced data collection for legal activism. I want to see if such previous attempts that have been done in India, Let me know if you know any such case. Also let me know if you want any help in this area. I will be more than happy.

Note: My report got included in the document submitted to high court. Here is the report by Bangalore mirror.

2 Responses

  1. Anush Shetty says:

    Thank Thej for doing this. The case was heard on Friday. An exercise such as this should be done regularly and that way it will help us assess the green cover of this city.

  1. May 21, 2014

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