Fisherman and mangrove campaigner Murukesan T.P. from Malippuram, Vypeen, has been chosen for the 24th PV Thampy Memorial Endowment Award given to people for their extraordinary contribution to environmental protection.
Mr. Murukesan has planted and nurtured over 40,000 mangrove plants in the panchayats of Vypeen, Chellanam, Vallarpadam, Cherai, Mulavukad, and Kadamakkudy over the past seven years. He has been working with the Kerala Forest department, growing mangrove plants in his own 8-cent property in Vypeen, and planting them in the areas demarcated by the department. He has created a mangrove nursery at home which can accommodate 15,000-20,000 saplings at a time.
Hailing from a family of pokkali farmers, Mr. Murukesan says communities that live along the coastal stretches have always had to deal with rising sea levels and flooding. “A mangrove tree is Nature’s perfection,” he says. “While protecting our shorelines and preventing erosion, it offers a home for marine and avian life. The pearlspot ( karimeen ), for instance, nests in the roots of the tree. It sustains life like no other tree,” he says.
Though coastal communities have for long understood the importance of mangroves in acting as a natural barrier, a buffer against erosion, mangroves are a threatened habitat. “We have to create awareness on the many uses of mangroves among the people in order to aid in its protection,” he says. After Kannur, Kochi has the highest mangrove cover in Kerala, followed by Alappuzha. Mr. Murukesan helps in carrying out mangrove surveys for the Forest Department.
Since 2018, he has also been growing and planting casuarina trees. He has planted over 20,000 saplings in the Elamkunnapuzha panchayat in Vypeen. “Casuarina trees also help protect the coastline to a large extent and are being used in the coastal afforestation programmes,” he says.
Though a fisherman by profession, he stopped going out to the sea a few years ago. He now spends most of his time on conservation activities. He is also actively involved in the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles. Last year, over 80 hatchlings were released into the sea. “By December, we expect the next batch of turtles to nest in this region’s beaches,” Mr. Murukesan says.
The PV Thampy Memorial Endowment Award was instituted in memory of journalist and environmentalist PV Thampy. The award ceremony will be held in Kochi in November.