Decade definers: Eco warriors Society

Eco warriors across India continue to do their bit to save the planet

Consistent efforts went into promoting heirloom rice in Kerala

Consistent efforts went into promoting heirloom rice in Kerala   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Thank you, says the planet: From reviving lakes to saving heirloom rice, promoting handlooms to reforestation projects, eco warriors across India continue to do their bit



Environmental NGO Thanal launched the Save Our Rice Campaign in 2004 at Kumbalangi, an island near Kochi. It has now spread to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Today, thousands of farmers have joined the drive to conserve native species of rice and revive traditional farming methods: 1,500 varieties of rice have been preserved, with 300 in Kerala alone. An agri-ecology centre in Wayanad and a rice diversity block at Panavally celebrate the diversity of rice species in India. Since 2007, Thiruthuraipoondi in Tamil Nadu has been holding an annual Nel Thiruvizha or paddy festival. A weekly organic bazaar in Thiruvananthapuram offers nutritious food to urban consumers and has helped thousands of farmers turn their back on harmful farming practices. One of its biggest successes has been the ban on endosulfan in agriculture, following its campaign. Thanal is now focussing on a carbon-neutral Kerala and creating climate-resilient farming communities.

Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer,

Climate activist

Eco warriors across India continue to do their bit to save the planet

Much before climate activism became a buzzword, Bengaluru-based Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer wrote two books for children — Let’s Plant Trees [Tulika Books] and Let’s Catch the Rain [Tulika Books].

He has campaigned for waste management in Bengaluru through public service ads, and planted trees in Bengaluru and elsewhere in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with When Cyclone Gaja hit Tamil Nadu in 2018, severely affecting coconut farmers, Vinod and the team at Reforest India started the Thengaja campaign to rehabilitate nearly 100 farmers living in a 50-km radius in Thanjavur district. Vinod also champions Reforest India’s other initiative, ‘gifting a tree’, where people contribute money to plant a tree for a loved one. He created the award-winning video, The Story of Kaveri (and every river everywhere) in three languages — Kodava Takk, Kannada and Tamil — about the need to plant trees to save rivers in India. It is a call to action, as are most of his campaigns.

Sudha Rani Mullapudi,


Sudha Rani (extreme right) with women artisans

Sudha Rani (extreme right) with women artisans   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Sudha Rani Mullapudi is a familiar name in handloom circles in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. She founded Abhihaara Social Enterprise in 2015, after having worked in rural development and sustainability projects supported by Naandi Foundation, Oxfam, APMAS (Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhivruddhi Society) and Traidcraft. In the weaver clusters she works with, there are efforts to reduce the carbon footprint and empower women stakeholders. Sudha is involved with different cooperative societies and helps train women workers in weaving and dyeing processes; using azo-free and natural dyes wherever possible, and gets them better wages and recognition.

Sudha works with a handful of weaver clusters. Abhihaara promotes the Kalashakthi mutually aided cooperative (MAC) society in Pedana with the support of SEEDAP (Society for Employment Generation and Enterprise Development in Andhra Pradesh) and Swashakthi MAC in Narayanpet that’s supported by project Disha of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). She’s also involved with Microsoft India’s project ReWeave that imparts digital skills and e-commerce support to weavers in ikat, Gadwal and Narayanpet.

The MAC society in Pedana follows a fibre-to-finish approach to minimise carbon footprint. “Everything is done locally, from procuring the yarn to weaving, block printing, dyeing, and garment making,” says Sudha.

The idea is to revive the handloom ecosystem and sustain craft-based livelihoods through fair trade practices. Women have also been taught to use leftover fibres to make jewellery and accessories. In the next three years, Sudha wants to step up the use of natural dyes and fibres in the clusters she’s engaged with.

In addition, a new project supported by SEEDAP that Sudha is involved with, trains artisans to replace acrylic colours with natural dyes for Kondapalli toys.

Make Ooty Beautiful,

citizen’s action group

A member of Make Ooty Beautiful painting a footpath wall in Ooty

A member of Make Ooty Beautiful painting a footpath wall in Ooty   | Photo Credit: M Sathyamoorthy

This group was formed in 2014 to involve people in civic issues and to get young citizens to view public property as their own. Under Shobana Chandrashekar, founding member and convener, MOB has worked hard in solid waste management and reclamation of public spaces. It played a key role in bringing about a comprehensive district-wide ban on single-use plastics. Its ‘Green Brigade’, with representatives from different trade organisations, works closely with Government officials to make sure that the ban is successful.

MOB has refurbished dozens of bus stops with the help of school and college students, has campaigned for protection of public buildings, clean public toilets, the revival of the Ooty Lake and sustainable tourism. It has converted an abandoned public toilet into a public art gallery called Gallery OneTwo and worked with the SPCA to facilitate responsible animal ownership and setting up of animal shelters/pounds.

With inputs from Saraswathy Nagarajan, Sravasti Datta, Sangeetha Devi Dundoo and Pankaja Srinivasan

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:23:55 PM |

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