Afforestation initiative that resulted in a hill in Tamil Nadu

1THTIRUVANNAMALAIIn Tiruvannamalai, a major Hindu pilgrim centre in Tamil Nadu that is home to the 10-hectare Annamalaiyar temple complex, one of the largest in India, the greening story goes back to the mid-90s, with the founding of the Annamalai Reforestation Society, a civil society initiative, followed by the Tiruvannamalai Greening Society (TGS), founded in 2004 by the then district forest officer (DFO) Pasupathy Raj along with several local functionaries, including fellow DFO Mani Iyer, the then collector Dheeraj Kumar and the then district revenue officer and now MD of Tamil Nadu Minerals Ltd. M. Vallalar. Says Raj: “Forest officials can and should take the bold step of encouraging afforestation in land controlled by the government, after correctly assessing the organisation and its plans.”

Lending remarkable momentum to these nascent efforts, The Forest Way (TFW) countered the damage wrought on a fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by pilgrims who arrive by the thousands, a forest wilfully set afire by goat herders so fresh shoots would grow, illegal logging of the little timber that survived, and the occasional bout of lightning in the scorching summers (Arunachala is an inselberg, a relatively isolated hill that rises abruptly from the plains). While the initiative has assumed a life force of its own now, at TFW’s heart (and that of the Marudam Farm School on the outskirts of the town) lies the passion of a trio: V. Arun, an engineer by qualification who left a corporate job to focus on alternative education and the environment, dedicated conservationist Akila Balu, and British educator-environmentalist Govinda Bowley, who serves as their consultant.

Read the full article in The Hindu

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