`Poonkavana Vandanam’, a nature conservation and reforestation scheme jointly launched by Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department and Mata Amrithanandamayi Madhom Green Friends, at Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala is fast picking up.

The project involves free distribution of saplings of trees that include timber as well as non-timber species like sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood and fruit trees to Ayyappa devotees returning from the holy hillock.

The scheme is popular as `Care Mother Nature’ project aimed at spreading awareness among the people on nature conservation and protecting trees, says Swami Jnanamruthananda, Green Friends co-ordinator.

Mata Amruthanandamayi, the Madhom Chief, was instrumental in launching the project at Pampa in association with the Forest department a few years ago with the message that ``a tree is equivalent to 10 sons’’. Her mission is to protect the sanctity of the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa by spreading awareness among the pilgrims on the importance of keeping the sacred grove clean.

Forest Minister, Binoy Viswom had inaugurated the Poonkavana Vandanam stall near the Pampa Ganapati Temple. Dr Jaggu, Head of Human Resources Department at Amritha Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. N.Prathapan Nair, AIMS principal and Dr. K.K.Haridas, head of Cardiology department were also present. Swami Jnanamruthananda presided.

Mr. K.Mohanachandran Nair, chief liaison officer, said not less than 250 saplings of fruit trees, sandalwood, rose wood, teakwood, etc, are being distributed through the stall on a daily basis. The Madhom also distributes pamphlets on nature conservation at Pampa.

The Madhom specifically focuses on planting trees in temple grounds, hospitals compounds, near educational institutions, along roadsides and in select public places. Each Green Friends member also vow to plant and maintain 18 saplings a year on their own, says Swami Jnanamruthananda. The distribution of saplings at Pampa will continue through out the Mandaklam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season, he adds.