KOCHI: Tourism may not have offered a perceivable model of sustainable development with a people-first policy at Kumbalangi. But a silent movement has certainly gained momentum along with the model tourism project - a mangrove restoration programme with an active participation of the local people!
Mangrove cover that once protected the low-lying island from the ravages of the storm water was on a steady decline in 2002 when the restoration project was introduced.
“This ‘pranthan kandal’ is at least 100 years old,” John Chalaveetil, an avid local mangrove conservationist, says, showing us the huge mangrove tree on the bank of a stream that marks the boundary of his homestead. “Actually, it protected our house from the monsoon floods,” he adds.
Inviting us to big natural pond nearby, John explains how fish have returned to it after he and other volunteers meticulously reared mangroves on the banks. “Kariyanna, Karimeen, Karooppa, Chemmeen, Palam kanni, Poomeen, crabs....” he goes on listing the fish that thrive under the protection of the thick mangroves there. “We started planting mangroves in 2002 and have grown nearly 2 lakh seedlings now,” says John, who maintains a nursery of various varieties of mangroves. “Our target is to erect a mangrove wall around the island...which means more than 4 lakh mangrove trees,” he elaborates on his dreams.
In the beginning, there were not many takers for the mangrove restoration programme. But now, many youths have realised its importance and have joined the drive.
Even school children are participating in the green effort, says John, who often visit schools in the locality to create awareness among students.
“I was a fisherman and I know the change it has brought in,” he says. “Earlier, the inland fish resources were on the decline, and in my estimation, it was slipping by 5 per cent each year. But now, we have enough fish and the fishermen have returned. They get good price for the catch too,” he concludes with a smile that does not hide the pride in what he and his fellow villagers achieved through years of hard work.