True, green cover is reducing by the day and water bodies are being polluted. But, people with love for Nature have shown that the situation is not bad, after all. Akila Kannadasan presents a round-up of environment-related initiatives in the city.

Common man to the rescue

It’s the eco-conscious, everyday people who make all the difference to our environment. This year, people from all walks of life took the initiative to do their bit for Nature. When trees in an avenue in Valasaravakkam were to be chopped off, the residents decided to stop it themselves. They contacted the Corporation officials and prevented the felling. Unfortunately, three trees fell prey to the axe before help arrived. But the residents came up with a solution: they planted three saplings in their place and appointed the people responsible for the felling to take care of them.

The theme for World Environment Day, 2013 was ‘Think. Eat. Save’. The people of Chennai have a lot of thinking to do before wasting food — but there are many in the city who dealt with food waste in their own way. Tender coconut seller Senthil did his bit by giving away the coconut flesh his customers wasted to the less-privileged free of cost. Mohandas of Mugalivakkam converted the vegetable waste his family generated into fuel using a bio-gas plant at home.

The green trend of terrace gardens spread to several houses this year. The residents of Ashram Avenue in Mugalivakkam showed the way with their luscious vegetable patches on their terraces. On November 28, young birders Suresh Kumar Rathod, Karthik Ramamurthy and Balaji Rayadurgam apprehended two poachers who shot a jungle cat and a grey francolin in the wilderness surrounding Nayapakkam village. They handed the offenders over to Forest Department officials with help form senior birders Gnanaskandan Keshavabharathi and Seshan Ezhumalai.

Wildlife trend

Wildlife enthusiasts were blessed with a lot of precious moments this year. The white stork was spotted at the Sholinganallur- Perumbakkam marsh after several years. Birders spotted the oriental turtle dove near Pulicat — this bird is said to be sighted after nearly a decade in the city. Other uncommon birds spotted in our wetlands include the peregrine falcon — one of the fastest birds, osprey, besra, and the cotton pygmy goose. Flamigoes were seen in the Pallikaranai marsh for several months. At the Madras Naturalists’ Society’s Bird Race held last week, 136 species were spotted. What’s interesting is that each of the 45 teams spotted the grey-headed lapwing.

Insects too made their presence felt. The shy whip scorpion visited a house in Ramapuram. The click beetle, chocolate pansy, and skippers were seen at Kalakshetra Colony. Places such as the Theospohical Society and Guindy National Park recorded an unusually large number of insects. They are a naturalist’s joy but ‘Poochi’ Venkat feels that there’s reason to be concerned. The density of insects per unit area has gone up and Venkat attributes this to human intervention. The city is changing; in keeping with the pace, insects are clinging to what’s left of their habitat. They are creeping into our homes since we have crept into theirs.

Animal rescues

What will we do without the kind-hearted men and women who care for animals in distress? The Blue Cross of India received approximately 20,000 calls this year — they have rescued around 5,500 animals. This includes, dogs, cats, and cattle. A lonely calf that was found dehydrated on the road, the puppy that fell into a 150ft borewell, the pregnant buffalo that almost drowned in a septic tank, the cat that was stuck in a well for ten days…Blue Cross relieved several animals from pain and trauma. This has been a busy year for them — they have also given away about 1200 puppies for adoption.

The Tree Foundation rescued and released into the sea two Olive Ridley turtles namely Yuvathi and Nayani. The members of the Sea Turtle Protection Force travelled across the coast of Tamil Nadu and created awareness about the ecological role of sea turtles in fishing villages. Thanks to them, fishermen released over 70 sea turtles that were entangled in their fishing nets.

Events

There are some people who discuss nothing but Nature when they meet. They brainstorm on how to make the city cleaner; they initiate actions for a better environment. Poovulagin Nanbargal are among them. Munneer Vizhavu, their symposium on Water, its culture and its politics held earlier this year, saw experts come together for a discourse on the need to create awareness and protect water, the most precious of our resources. The team also organised Naan Paesa Virumbugiraen, a symposium on the role of women in conservation.

The Environmentalist Foundation of India were on their toes the entire year. Their volunteers cleaned-up the Arasankazhani, Madambakkam, Tambaram and Keezhkattalai lakes and the Mannivakkam pond. Their clean-up of the Narayanapuram lake saw active participation of general public and corporates. Nizhal initiated students from Corporation schools into organic farming. They have also been involved in planting native trees in Corporation parks. How do we know the population of the trees in our city? D. Narasimhan an associate professor of Botany at the Madras Christian College, has roped in college students to find out. He has lead tree censuses in places such as the Guindy National Park, IIT-M, Theosophical society and the Simpson Industrial Estate in Sembium where students recorded the location, girth, and height of trees.