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Memorial park in Nagapattinam

Vani Doraisamy



FOR THE RECORD: The memorial plaque listing global tsunami deaths put up by the Nagapattinam administration at Pushpavanam coastal village. — BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

CHENNAI: It was Nagapattinam's way of remembering the victims of last year's tsunami.

In just under 20 hours, 1,74,542 saplings — one for each of the victims of the tsunami in 14 countries worldwide — were planted by volunteers on 47 acres of this worst-affected district.

The massive effort, mooted by the district administration, the Forest Department, students of BITS, Pilani, and IT major Wipro, has been sent to the Guinness Book of World Records for validation.

Importance of bioshields

Apart from paying homage, the saplings are Nagapattinam's way of reminding itself of the importance of trees and sand dunes, which saved several thousands of lives. The memorial park has come up in the Pushpavanam and Naluvedhapatti areas.

A plaque recording the number of dead in countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand was also opened at the site.

"The public-private partnership is a fitting memorial to the humanitarian response shown by the global community to the disaster, apart from stressing the importance of bioshields," J. Radhakrishnan, Nagapattinam Collector, told The Hindu over phone.

Overwhelming response

The pitting and planting was started on Saturday by a group of 300 villagers with assistance from volunteers.

"So overwhelming was the community's response that even after crossing the 1.74 lakh mark, they continued the planting. They stopped after planting 2,54,464 saplings that have transformed the entire area," he said.

Species planted included casuarina and "thazhai," which are known to act as wave breakers.

The saplings alone cost over Rs. 3 lakh.

The entire exercise was captured on video and sent to the Guinness authorities for validation.

"The experience proved cathartic to the locals. We will continue the effort by planting 2.5 million saplings in 250 hectares over the next three months,'' Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

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