From The News Minute: These six environmental activists, not all of them well known, have been at the forefront of the fight against encroachment, destruction and contamination of the natural environment across Tamil Nadu. Also included is the video of a talk by one of the activists featured, Nityanand Jayaraman, on ‘A world without corporations.’
They protect our forests and fight to ensure you and I have clean water. Environment warriors are some of the most unsung heroes of our times. It’s time we recognised at least some of them.
VS Veerapathiran, Kodaikanal
Known more commonly as Veera in his circles, this environmentalist is known for his relentless campaign against Hindustan Unilever in the hill station, for the mercury contamination that they were responsible for. He fought to ensure that HUL compensated 600 workers affected by mercury waste. He also stood up against the government’s Lower Gundar Water Project that was meant to meet the water needs of Kodaikanal hills. This was because the site identified for the project was deep inside a forest and would have damaged an ecosystem that was home to a plethora of flora and fauna.
S Bharathidasan, Chennai
The vulture, the bird of prey has a keen set of eyes watching over it in the Mudumalai-Sathyamangalam area. These watchful eyes belong to Bharathidasan, who along with the Forest department has been keeping count of the birds. He has been working towards the prevention of consumption of diclofenac by animals. The chemical has proved to be fatal for vultures that consume the animals.
He received the Biodiversity Hot Spot Hero award from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) during the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) World Conservation Congress.
Muthamma, Coimbatore district
This frail tribal woman from the Irula community has been waging a courageous war for her tribe’s right to forest land for several years now. She has taken on the powerful Isha foundation in Coimbatore. According to the activist, the organisation led by Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev took away land that rightfully belonged to about 200 tribal families. Muthamma is unable to live with her family, that works at the ashram, and is currently working to spread word on her allegation that forest land has been illegally snatched by the foundation.
M Yoganathan, Coimbatore
This bus conductor who works with the Tamil Nadu State Road Transport Corporation (TNSTC) has single-handedly planted 1 lakh trees in the last 28 years throughout Tamil Nadu. It was after he witnessed trees being smuggled that he first decided to take the onus of conserving the environment upon himself. He travels from Gandhipuram to Marudhamalai every day and over 40% of his monthly income goes into buying saplings. He also educates children and youngsters in local schools and colleges about the environment. Till date, he has planted 1,20,000 saplings, throughout Tamil Nadu.
Piyush Manush, Salem
Piyush Sethia or ‘Salem’s green warrior’ as he has been titled is an environmentalist who has created a Co-op forest which expands over 150 acres in his district. He started off by buying 1.5 acres of land on which he started planting trees in 2009. He then concvinced his friends to buy patches of this land and steadily created a cooperative. He has also actively participated in water conservation projects and has also stood up against the government when development projects affected the common man adversely. It was during one such protest that he was arrested in 2017. Piyush who is the convenor of the Salem Citizens forum however, has not been deterred and continues to take on powerful organisations such as Vedanta and the Isha Foundation for alleged illegal activities that affect the environment.
Nityanand Jayaraman, Chennai
Writer, researcher and activist Nityanand Jayaraman has been featured by multiple media organisations and there is hardly a story on the environment in Chennai that is written without his comment to add credibility to it. He began his career as a journalist before donning the role of a full time activist. He now leads the Coastal Resource Centre in Chennai which aims to provide sustained support to coastal communities in the face of development activities that are destructive in nature. He does this by using democratic spaces for dissent and proactive engagement. Ahead of the monsoons that Tamil Nadu witnessed recently, he helped organise a human chain to highlight the encroachments on Ennore creek. It involved residents of Ennore and the rest of Chennai, allowing stakeholders to display their concern to the government.
Tata’s army: The green warriors who risk their lives to protect a Philippine paradise
Palawan is the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, home to most of the nation’s remaining forests and renowned as a global biological hotspot. But its also a magnet for those seeking to plunder the island’s natural wealth. PNNI, a small group of civilian para-enforcers are taking the rainforest’s protection into their own hands.
Three times rise in killings of India’s land, eco-defenders: Modi govt blamed for “stifling opposition” by any means
A just-released global report has revealed that the number of land and environment defenders killed in India has almost trebled, from 6 in 2015 to 16 in 2016, blaming it on “a disturbing trend” of increasing police brutality, indicating the Modi government’s determination “to stifle opposition to ‘development’ by any means necessary.”
Tribute: A mountain and a movement: the Save Western Ghats March
Straddling six states, the 1600-odd kilometre-long Western Ghats is home to an astonishing diversity of life and supports innumerable communities and cultures. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the remarkable 100-day ‘Save Western Ghats March’, a landmark event in Indian environmental activism, which became the model for numerous campaigns to follow.
Tribute: Bill Kayong, Malaysian activist who fought to protect native forests
Yale Environment 360
On this day last year, Bill Kayong, an up-and-coming political activist in Miri, a coastal oil town in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, was shot dead. At the time, Kayong was leading a campaign to protect native forest lands and stop incursions on traditional lands by logging and palm oil companies.