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Akathethara builds a green bridge to the future

G. Prabhakaran

The grama panchayat in Palakkad displays admirable ecological consciousness and rides on the wings of technology



Green initiatives:Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac inaugurating the Palakkad Gap afforestation scheme of the Akathethara grama panchayat.

Akathethara (PALAKKAD): Ecological disasters and environmental degradation might be issues beyond the scope of a local body. But grassroots-level initiatives to restore the ecological balance at least at the local level have great relevance, especially in an environmentally sensitive part of the world.

Akathethara grama panchayat, lying in the lap of the Western Ghats, is engaged in such an endeavour in a bid to reverse degradation of the nearby forest areas that has hurt the living conditions of the people.

The terrain, known popularly as the ‘Palakkad Gap', is said to be one of the longest forest passes in the world and the effort of the panchayat over the last two years has been to green this stretch by planting more than one lakh saplings.

The panchayat launched the programme on June 5, World Environment Day, last year. Christened ‘Green the Gap' programme, the panchayat's initiative has received widespread praise with a survey undertaken by the Forest Department showing that 90 per cent of the saplings have survived.

The 40 km-wide natural gap in the 1,960-km Western Ghats plays a key role in determining the special characteristics of the district such as its climate and commercial and cultural exchanges with the rest of the country.

Instead of resting on its laurels , the panchayat has planted another 25,000 saplings beginning June 5 this year, thereby taking its greening initiative to the entire panchayat with the help of the Forest Department, says panchayat president D. Sadasivan.

The panchayat has also taken up planting of saplings on private land and the sides of roads and canals and, most importantly, on the banks of the Kalpathy river. Last year, bamboo was planted on 25 acres under the Centrally sponsored ‘Hariyali scheme'. The panchayat also launched a watershed development programme with the involvement of local padasekhara samithis and karshaka samithis under the supervision of the Akathethara Integrated Watershed Council.

Farmers are being given tips on good farming techniques and machinery by the agro clinic set up by the panchayat and their labour requirements are met to a large extent by its ‘labour bank'.

Akathethara has also fast tracked itself into the cyber world with a fully computerised office with a front office flaunting a touch screen enquiry facility. The people of the panchayat can now submit applications and petitions online and get certificates of ownership, birth, death, residence, etc. without the usual hassle.

It has also taken up many social welfare schemes and formed a ‘Senior Citizens Club' to make it a ‘senior citizen friendly panchayat'. Health care is being provided to terminally ill patients under the ‘Ashraya Scheme'.

The panchayat has set up a solid waste management plant in its bid to become a ‘zero waste panchayat'.

It has won the Nirmal Puraskar carrying a purse of Rs.5 lakh from the Central government for its total sanitation initiatives.

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