KOCHI: Recipient of many awards, and quite famous in his sphere as the ‘forest minister’, due to his penchant for planting tree saplings anywhere and everywhere, Shyam Kumar, an autorickshaw driver at Thenkurissi in Palakkad district, has another recognition coming his way.
He has been selected for the 23rd PV Thampy Memorial Endowment Award for Environment Protection in remembrance of journalist and environmentalist PV Thampy. The award will be conferred on him in November.
For Shyam Kumar, with 10 awards in his kitty, planting saplings has been a way to protect the environment. According to him, he began planting saplings 20 years ago.
“I have, till date, planted and nurtured around 23,000 trees at various public places in Palakkad district,” said Shyam Kumar.
His afforestation efforts are not limited to planting saplings in Palakkad. “I have provided saplings to many places and organisations in other districts, even in Ernakulam’s Mangalavanam,” he said. Even his autorickshaw spreads messages on afforestation.
“It is hard to convince people regarding the necessity of protecting the environment,” said Shyam Kumar. Unlike others who take up long speeches and couple of demonstrations as a means to spread the message, Shyam ensures his saplings thrive.
“I have placed plastic water bottles with tiny holes on the cap near the base of every sapling. At least 10 litres of water is always in my autorickshaw,” he said. Whenever he picks up passengers, he fills up the water bottles on his way back from the drop off. “There is not a place in the district where I haven’t planted a tree,” he added.
Not only is he an ardent plant lover, but Shyam is also a big-time bird lover. “The premises of my house look like a mini bird sanctuary,” quips Shyam. Palakkad is a very hot place especially in the summers when the temperature soars beyond 40 degree Celsius, he added.
Shyam has placed flat vessels filled with water at specific places on his homestead. “I even hang up a bunch of plantains for the birds,” he added. According to him, around 34 types of birds visit his place every day. “Besides the birds, animals like snakes, mongoose too come seeking water to quench their thirst,” said this eco-lover!