Kerala’s Mangroves Man is no more. Greenlichen pays tribute to the great man by bringing to the fore an earlier interview published on December 19, 2013.
In Muttukandy, near Kannur, Kerala lives an old man who spent his whole life planting and tendering mangroves. When you ask him about how he wants to be remembered, he answers without giving it a second thought; “I want to be known as ‘Kandal’ Pokkudan”. Kandal in Malayalam means mangroves.
In the panchayat that Kandal Pokkudan lives, there are about 500 acres of mangrove forests that are spread throughout the coastline. Many of them are still there today due to the efforts of this humble person.
Despite the efforts by many to cut off these mangroves in the name of village development, Pokkudan fought and saved them from dying. Partly lamenting the ignorance that his fellow beings seem to have regarding his beloved mangroves, he says: “My experience tells me that planting mangroves is the only way to save our earth. Mangroves are the only way with which we can resist the sea . . . and not only this, they also contribute heavily in cleaning up the dirt that gathers in lakes and rivers”.
Pokkudan in an interview tells readers of greenlichen.com about these magical beauties that line up across coasts, his decision to protect them and why we need to do the same . . .
- How did you decide on planting these mangroves?
Mangroves used to grow in abundance in this panchayat, and because of that I quickly realized how these can protect nature.
I started planting mangroves in marshlands and on lakesides. There were indeed a lot of protests against this; some people even destroyed the ones I already planted. But that did not hamper my drive.
It’s a refreshing feeling, when you are in the marsh and planting mangroves. Also, planting these would help the children to get away from strong winds on their way back home from school. My work paid me well when I first saw my mangroves grow, a visual treat it was!
- How important are mangroves when it comes to preserving our coastlines?
Mangroves are useful in more than a hundred ways . . . we have already seen how well it can tackle tsunami and tornadoes. Also if there are strong mangrove forests, the waves of the sea can’t even take a little portion of our land. It also helps in reducing the force of strong winds. Other than all this it successfully filters water from inlets and also provides shelter for many species in the ocean to reproduce. In short, in to have a healthy coastline, it is important to have a healthy mangrove forest.
- What about the role of mangroves in fresh water conservation?
There are variants of mangroves which can absorb the salt in brackish water. You can see the salt droplets on these leaves itself. Thus it helps in retaining the freshwater as it is.
- What kind of birds lives in these mangroves?
It is the peacefulness inside these mangroves that attract migratory birds . . . they can build their nests at the top and can also get food in the lower layers. In thick mangrove forests, you can find a bird which is as big as a child. Local people call it “Kandiyappan”, it has brown and green feathers. There are a number of birds that find refuge in these strong branches.
- Your message to this society?
Everybody should follow rules; something should be done against those who contaminate the lakes and rivers. In order to protect the mangrove forests in private properties and to protect our coastlines we should work in tandem. The importance of mangroves should be taught from the school level onwards. The earth is not just for us, we have a commitment to everything that lives on this earth too.
When asked if he is going to continue planting mangroves, Kandal Pokkudan exclaims, “I am too old to go into the marsh and do all that by myself. All I can do now is to impart whatever I have learnt through all these years of living to the coming generation. I even feel that sometimes my entire struggle is pointless . . . but then. . .”
Yes, but then, if people like Pokkudan stops believing . . . this world will be a much more difficult place to dwell in . . .
Kandal Pokkudan, is
an Associate Editor
at Aranyam Wildlife
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