A recent government survey has listed 184 registered environmental NGOs in Kerala. Paristhithi Samrakshana Samithi (PSS) in Kozhikode is one. But is it really just one among them? The International Earth Day Network Foundation’s award for them as part of the ‘Shahar Green Karo’ (Make the City Green) campaign across 45 cities of India tells a different story.
A Sreevalsan, chairman of PSS, too agrees that the award is a just reward for their well-directed functioning and maintaining transparency, one of the standout features of the organisation for him. “Actually, it was quite surprising for us to get the award because a lot of organisations are involved in environmental projects in Kozhikode and Kerala,” says Sreevalsan.
“The award committee thoroughly evaluated our works. We maintain a proper website, and we have a Whatsapp group and Facebook page that we update regularly to keep in touch with the public and our members. We also maintain proper accounts of all the money being spent and have registered ourselves as a society under the Societies Act,” he says.
But the transparency factor is just one part. Sreevalsan believes that concentrating on organic farming and the movement to protect sacred groves (‘kavu’) have made them really different from the crowd. He then delved into their efforts to spread organic farming, a novel way at that.
“We have formed a special forum for spreading organic farming. Finding a suitable land for carrying out farming is the main hurdle as many pieces of lands are under dispute. So, we cannot do anything there. But, now, we are targeting lands purchased by builders or hoteliers. They may not do immediate construction work there. So, we are requesting them to provide that land temporarily for us to do organic farming. SPAN Hotel came forward and co-operated with us recently,” says Sreevalsan.
Protecting sacred groves too occupies a prime position in PSS’ working. “Not many organisations are concentrating on the sacred groves in Kerala. They are part of Kerala’s ancient culture. But now they are facing a test of survival. The land prices in Kerala have shot up big time, and people are more interested in selling the land more than maintaining them. So, we are trying to make people aware of the importance of sacred groves and we have been conducting regular seminars in that direction. We are celebrating January 31 as ‘Kavu Samrakshna Dinam’ (Save the Sacred Groves Day). Fortunately, many organisations like Canara Bank and State Bank too have been interested in our work and, hopefully, we can attract more,” he details.
Now, they have taken up another social initiative, Green and Clean Chalappuram.
“We are not concentrating only on agitations. But we are more oriented to social awareness programmes, so that more people are part of our campaigns. Green and Clean Chalappuram is a project of that kind. We have started the scheme by planting 30 trees and distributing biodegradable cloth bags to over 1,000 families in Chalappuram to persuade them to reduce the use of plastic,” he adds.