Teachers and students spearhead a green drive at Kadri Mills School. K. JESHI takes a walk around the green campus

The manjal konrai stands tall and gracious with its yellow blooms at Kadri Mills School near Ondipudur. “It’s 60,” says D. Krishnaveni, the head mistress. An alumnus of the school, she adds: “Our school is 60 years old and so are some of the pungan, fig, neem, vaadha narayani, naaval, and poovarasan trees here.” The konrai is home to a number of night herons too. “After the monsoons, the tree is a riot of yellow flowers, and the herons build nests on the tree trunks,” says zoology teacher R. Selvi.

At the entrance, we walk past medicinal plants such as thoothuvaalai and nandyar vattam; and ornamental pink balsams, nithyakalyani and pink arali that brighten up the environs. “Our morning prayer session followed by meditation under the shade of the trees gives a good start to our day. The arasa maram and vembu purify air and ensure a healthy environment,” says Krishnaveni.

In the last five years, the students have, along with the Forest Department and organisations such as Siruthuli, Isha Yoga Centre and the Alumni Association of the School, distributed over 4,000 saplings to nearby panchayats, temples and homes. Showing them the way is Selvi, who inspires her students to explore and conserve Nature.

Selvi takes me on a tour of the trees at the campus. There’s an open playground bordered by trees — white, yellow, red, and pink flowers dot the green landscape. “Our students regularly raise saplings and distribute them in the neighbourhood. Recently, a group of students nurtured 650 saplings and gave them to the nearby Pallapalayam Panchayat,” she says.

The students also take turns to water and nurture the greenery. They participate in tree planting awareness rallies and spread the word on a clean and green environment.

Pigeons visit the campus in hundreds. So do black kites and peacocks. Other regular visitors are little cormorants, little egrets, mynahs, owls, babblers, golden oriole, sunbirds, golden-backed woodpeckers, white-throated kingfishers, and white-headed babblers. As the Noyyal river bank is just around the corner, they regularly spot painted storks and darters too.

Selvi and her students have recorded over 67 species of birds on the campus. We look up and spot a number of little cormorants (neer kaagai) in flight as they travel from Sulur Lake to Singanallur. “Thousands of little cormorants flock the school campus in the evenings. One of our students watched the birds for 30 days, recorded the nature of flight, feeding place and the roosting ground and presented the project at Children’s Science Congress. One particular day, she saw about 9,000 birds.”

There’s a pleasant whiff of fragrance in the playground. It comes from the Maramalli tree. Popularly called jasmine tree or paneer poo, it bears long-stalked white flowers in bunches. “We see sunbirds feeding on the nectar of maramalli flowers. Some of the trees have honeycombs and the honey buzzard visits such trees for honey. The trees are a nesting abode for mynahs, eagles and squirrels,” says Selvi.

The green cover is now extended to Kadri Mills Elementary School too, which is next door. The campus already looks cheerful, with healthy saplings of poovarasan, maramalli and manjal konrai.

(How green is your neighbourhood? Write in to feedbackcbe@gmail.com if you know of any individuals, institutions or colonies that take pride in their trees)