He could not have set a better example for his students at a time when the impact of global warming is here to see. The teacher has been watering some 2,000 saplings planted by his school and the Forest Department under a social forestry scheme along 18 kilometres of the Cheruvathur-Kakadavu and the Cheemeni-Podavur roads in 2010.

K.M. Anil Kumar turns his attention from his students at the Aided Primary School at Podavur at Kayyur-Cheemeni to the saplings during the weekends. It is a labour of love, fetching water from a nearby house and ferrying it in a mini-lorry.

“The saplings need watering in the first three years and I am solely guided by the motive to conserve them,” he says. “The saplings planted under the social forestry scheme are very often found abandoned after draining lakhs of rupees. This trend needs to be reversed,” he says.

It is on his initiative that the school bagged the national-level Paryavaran Mitra award last year.

After loading water on the mini-lorry from the house of Narayani free of cost, Mr. Anil Kumar goes about watering the saplings for four-and-a-half hours each in the morning and evening on Saturdays and Sundays.

The saplings have grown around eight metres tall, he says.

With the deficient monsoon, they need to be watered right from January to the onset of rains again.

“The teacher is assisted by the mini-lorry driver in watering the saplings and the Forest Department is financing the expenses to ferry the water for the initial two years,” Assistant Conservator of Forests P. Biju, who is supervising the “green” drive, says.

The department has earmarked funds to protect the planted saplings for the initial two years. But in case of a locality with laterite soil and an acute water scarcity, the saplings needs to be watered for more than two years, Mr. Biju says underscoring the need for the active involvement of the public in saving them.

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