‘Locals should be aware of importance of their areas’
While most people are busy planning their weekends and deciding between restaurants, malls and cinema halls to visit, a few small groups of residents are determined to make their cause heard through simple means. They have chosen to walk for it by attending the many such initiatives started by the city residents.
“Most people who want to learn more about the environment find it more interesting to visit places and learn about the flora there in a group. We give them the opportunity to do so,” says N. Chidambaram, founder of Madurai Green, an environmental organisation which organises ‘Tree Walk’ on the third Sunday of every month.
The Tree Walk is one among the few initiatives which seek to bring together people who want to know more about different aspects of the city and its surroundings. Dhan Foundation’s ‘Heritage Walk’ offers interested people a chance rediscover more than 90-odd heritage sites in the district.
“The success of many such initiatives like this prompted a group of us to come together under the banner of ‘Wake Up Madurai’ to save the dying waterbodies in the city,” asserted Tamil Dasan, a member of ‘Naanal Nanbargal,’ a group working towards environmental causes in the city.
Most initiatives work with the premise that the local community should be made aware of the importance of their surroundings.
“The concept of our ‘Heritage Walk’ is centred on the objective of inculcating heritage literacy among the local people and contribute to the area’s development,” explains K.P. Bharathi, who heads the ‘Tourism for Development’ programme for the foundation.
“When we sensitise people to the historical importance of a spot, we can prompt more people to visit the place which, in the long run, can contribute to a tourism network,” he said.
Echoing Mr.Bharathi’s point, Mr.Chidambaram says people are often unaware of what they are living amidst.
“When we organised a ‘Tree Walk’ at the Tamil Nadu Polytechnic College, many residents of that area who attended the walk said they had no idea about the rich and diverse flora in their neighbourhood,” recounts Mr.Chidambaram.
While most of these walks are open to the public, some initiatives are organised specially keeping mainstream institutions in mind.
Many colleges in the city with their green campuses have caught the interests of environmentalists, who have documented the flora through organising walks there.
“Not only will it prompt the people who frequent those places to protect the environment, it will also encourage others to maintain their surroundings likewise,” says Mr.Chidambaram.
The ‘Green Walk’, an initiative pioneered by writer and activist A. Muthukrishnan, celebrated a milestone of 25 walks in August which were attended by more than 500 people.
A mixed group of students, housewives and, sometimes, whole families and senior citizens attend these awareness walks, say most organisers, adding that the numbers have been steadily increasing.
“As a member who has attended several tree walks, I am now able to identify several plant species and know about their importance. The more the public are involved, the better it is for conservation and protection of a place,” Tamil Dasan concludes.