Raising a green brigade
Marimuthu Yoganathan has planted thousands of trees across Tamil Nadu
Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
for the album Vice President Hamid Ansari with the Eco Warrior awardees. Marimuthu Yoganathan is seen here standing fifth from the right
The tree was felled, and the little nest had fallen,
In the dead sparrow’s beak, was a morsel for her chicks
This is the English translation of the Tamil couplet that Marimuthu Yoganathan recites spontaneously even as the conversation starts rolling. That is the poet in him. And that is also about his love for nature and his empathy with the life forms. Be
aring testimony to this is the 38,000 trees that he has planted over the past 25 years across Tamil Nadu.
Talking about how it all started, the 42-year-old bus conductor from Coimbatore recounts, “As a child I would go to the peaceful environs of the forest to compose poems.” Continues Yoganatha, in New Delhi recently to receive the Eco Warrior award given by Earth Matters Foundation to mark this year’s World Environment Day, “There I would find people felling trees. I would make efforts to stem it. But such means were not really working out.” Subsequently he felt that “educating students could be effective in spreading the message of conservation.” His fondness for planting trees started at the age of 13.
So how did he go about educating students? “In the beginning, equipped with a manual projector, I began going to schools to conduct lectures and slide shows for students on environmental conservation. And this would be followed by tree planting.” Soon many teachers, students and volunteers began joining him.
But was he qualified enough to speak about these issues? The response takes us back to the forest. Says Yoganathan, whose academic education ended in school itself, “I learnt a lot by going around the forest with the botanists who came from the local forest college for research work.” He gives more than an instance of his knowledge about the environment. He describes in vivid detail the nesting pattern of the Malabar hornbill and how it raises a family with the female and her chicks ensconced in a hole in the tree. Also, that the eucalyptus tree should not be grown as it lowers the the water table. Or that the oxygen a man needs during his life of say, 70 years is given out by a tree in six months.
Incidentally, with the heightened interest in environment his poetry too branched off into these issues. If it strikes an emotional chord sometimes, at other times it is satirical or witty.
Yoganathan continues to conduct his programs with a slide show followed by tree planting, though he uses an automatic projector now. And the pictures used in the slides are a mix of those clicked by him and that of professional wildlife photographers. He has also come up with a slogan: “If there is no forest, there is no human life.” Happy with his work he says he has conducted these programs at 1,687 schools, colleges and other institutions and organisations across Tamil Nadu. “I have also conducted programs for teachers and doctors. I suggest to the students, for instance, that they can plant a tree on their birthday. And everyday I get some 15 calls from students asking for saplings.” Yoganathan, who serves in the State transport corporation, got 10,000 free saplings from the State forest department besides some other organisations.
“It is only when I buy from the local forest college that I have to pay Rs.5 per sapling.”
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