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People for the Environment – The Hindu
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People for the Environment – The Hindu

These individuals and organizations have continued their efforts in protecting Nature through 2021. They have been involved in conservation of threatened and rare snake species, and they have helped create mangrove forests along the coasts.

A few individuals and organisations continued to work towards conserving the environment despite the Coronavirus-imposed restrictions and lockdowns in 2021. They refused to let the uncertainties of pandemics stop them from creating awareness, mobilising support, conducting research, and carrying out projects. They proved that local communities play a vital role for environmental protection in their own unique ways.

These are just a handful of those who have made a positive impact on South India’s biodiversity.

Murthy Kantimahanti

Murthy Kantimahanti

The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society

An Andhra Pradesh-based organization has been leading a community-based wildlife conservation program in the Eastern Ghats for the past few years, at a time when biodiversity conservation was limited to small projects that rarely last long. The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society, (EGWS), has been involved in a number of projects throughout the State. These include the conservation of the threatened species the king cobra, rescue of other rare snake species to save the pangolin, as well as raising awareness about the less-known fishing cat species.

The non-profit organisation promotes community-based wildlife conservation through education, conservation-oriented research, public participation, institutional capacity building and sustainable development. The 2021 year has been a significant year for the organisation’s projects. EGWS rescued 400 snakes, 12 different species, from the North-Eastern Ghats through snake rescues in the countryside. EGWS also released 20 king corbras from the Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam human-dominated areas.

We reached more than 30 villages in the region. Mandals Devarapalli, Cheedikada & Madugula from Visakhapatnam to raise awareness about snakebite management and conservation. Murthy Kantimahanti (founder of EGWS) says that 12 king cobras were saved from killing this year by the outreach programs. They also discovered new distributional records about rare species like the yellow-green cat snake from Visakhapatnam and the mock viper. Murthy says that we will establish the first Eastern Ghats conservation station in the Eastern Ghats region of Northern Andhra Pradesh.

The highly-elusive fishing cats are found in a patchy area of the Eastern Ghats. The species is at risk from habitat loss (wetland degrading), sand mining along river banks, and conflict with humans in some areas. This can lead to targeted hunting and retaliatory deaths. The society organized a unique awareness program called Swim Like A Fisher Cat to promote conservation of Eastern Ghat fishing cat species. Participants were encouraged to swim in an open water lake near Chodavaram forest in Visakhapatnam district, and to learn more about ecology and conservation.

Murukesan TP

Murukesan TP

Mangrove campaigner Murukesan T P

The front yard of Murukesan T Ps’s house in Malippuram, Vypeen and Kochi is populated by rows of plants with shiny leaves. These are mangrove trees, which Murukesan has taken care of. He has built a mangrove nursery in his eight-cent property that can hold between 15,000 and 20,000 plants at one time. These saplings are used in the mangrove plantation drives that take place in and around Kochi’s coastal belt.

Murukesan has been active in Kochi’s mangrove conservation campaign, even though it is small. Since 2014, he has been working closely with the Kerala Forest Department and has planted more that 40,000 mangrove plants in Vypeen (Chellanam), Vallarpadam (Cherai), Mulavukad (Kadamakkudy), Mulavukad (Mulavukad) and Vallarpadam (Vellanam). These small islands are part of Kochi and home to 13 mangrove species. They have been declining in number for a long time. Kochi, with its 3.96 sq km of mangroves, is second in Kerala. Kannur, however (7.55 sq km) has the largest mangrove coverage. Murukesan was able to mobilize support and create awareness over seven years to help local communities plant mangroves.

He will be participating in a seed collection drive between February and March. This is the best season for collecting seeds. The Forest Department will be inviting rural women’s associations to participate in the plantation drive next season.

Murukesan has been assisting the Forest Department with mangrove surveys. He believes that only by making the public aware about the importance of mangroves, can we get the message across. Since 2018, he has been planting and growing casuarina trees, which help protect shorelines. He has planted over 22,000 saplings in Vypeen’s Elamkunnapuzha pachayat.

Our inter-tidal coast regions are very dependent on mangroves. They are a natural barrier to cyclones, and tsunamis. According to Murukesan, Kerala’s coastal residents have had to deal with rising sea tides for a long time. Mangrove trees can help reduce the damage. Murukesan, who used to be a fisherman before becoming interested in mangrove conservation, said that mangroves are still being fully appreciated. They protect coastal erosion and prevent seawater intrusion.

Members of Nature Society of Tiruppur with school children

Members of Nature Society of Tripur with schoolchildren

Nature Society of Tiruppur

Recent news was made by students at Subbiah Central school in Tiruppur near Coimbatore. They saved a 25 year-old jamun tree from being cut down and moved it inside the school. Ravindran Kamatchi a founding member, said it was heartening to watch children take the lead in conservation. The society has already completed over 280 education programs on appreciation of Nature and reached as many 80,000 children in Tiruppur (Erode), Coimbatore (Coimbatore), Pollachi, and Tuticorin. Ravindran states that the society’s goal is to incite children into Nature and encourage them to conserve it with a scientific spirit.

Frontline Academy students have established a butterfly garden on campus. More than 70 students are part the thriving young birders wings. Students are active members in Nature and eco clubs. They commemorate events such as International Tigers Day and participate in green drives around the city. If you take a walk around campus, you’ll find water bowls available for birds at many locations. The goal is to educate children and the results are already starting to show. They take weekend treks to the foothills of Nilgiris (Mettupalayam and Kallar, Nellithurai and Kunjapanai), Topslip, hills around Tiruppur like Elathur and Othimalai and Oothiyur Hills, and observe birds and butterflies at waterbodies around Tiruppur, such as Nanjarayan Tank, Orathupalayam Dam and Kathanganni lake and Vellode Bird Sanctuary.

The 18-member team participates in Forest Department surveys, census studies, and rescues injured birds, mostly peacocks, owls, and koels. The members also try to stop illegal trade of parakeets. munias, freshwater turtles, and even francolins.

He remembers a memorable birding experience at Point Calimere. We travel eight hours each year to find flamingoes. The first year, we didn’t see any birds. We saw a pair the second year. We saw a third flock of over 30,000 birds, some wading and some flying. The birds looked almost like a flame while they took off. It was an amazing sight.

They have been asking the Government for years to declare Nanjarayan Tank in Tiruppur, a biodiversity hotspot, as a protected wetland. It covers 440 acres. Of which, 280 acres are the catchment area. We have documented 194 species of birds there, including thousands migratory birds like bar-headed goose, garganeys or northern pintails. Godwits, little stints and swallows can also be found here.

Ravindran claims that his mentor Mohammed Ali (founder of Natural History Trust) has been a strong guiding force. We created a separate wing that focuses on schools. We want to make the planet safe for the future generation.

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