PALAKKAD: He was always fond of greenery. But over the past 12 years, Kallur Balan has taken his love for nature a notch higher. Come monsoon, and the Mankurissy resident gets busy planting saplings in different parts of Palakkad district. Now 73, Balan says he has planted lakhs of saplings on roadsides and public places over the past decade.
And while awaiting the onset of the monsoon season, during summer, the environmentalist collects damaged fruits – like apples, oranges, mangoes and grapes – from wholesale shops and transports them to the forest fringes in Mundur and Iyermala to feed wild animals like monkeys, porcupines, wild boars, and peacocks and other birds.
“If we don’t collect these damaged fruits, they will be dumped in the garbage or drains and will rot there,” Balan says. Earlier, he used to ride a motorcycle while on his green sorties. Recognising his commitment to making the earth greener, an entrepreneur in Palakkad presented him with a suitable vehicle two years ago. A social organisation also gives him an honorarium every month.
Balan now drives it around ‘delivering’ damaged fruits to the animals and birds waiting on the forest fringes. “His commitment to greenery and rainwater conservation is praiseworthy,” says K K Rehman, a teacher and the president of the Kallur Haritha Club.
Balan’s father, Velu, was a public activist and a panchayat member. After completing Class X, he received an offer letter as a watcher in the forest department but he declined. “For some time, I had worked as an abkari agent and was selling toddy. I also managed a provision shop. But later I realised I was on the wrong track. I have not only abandoned it but also put up a large board on my vehicle stating that alcohol is dangerous to health,” he says.
In Chudiyan hills, belonging to the forest department, which lay barren earlier, Balan had planted saplings of neem, ‘ungu’ (Indian beech tree), palmyra and ‘arayaal’ (peepal tree), which are his favourites. And now there is a canopy of thick vegetation there. Moreover, these trees emit tonnes of oxygen into the atmosphere.
“Planting saplings is not a big task but their conservation requires a lot of effort. For the first few years, the plants need to be watered,” he points out.With global warming posing a serious threat, he is certain only improving the forest cover can offer a solution.
These days, Balan is also spotted at festival venues supplying free ‘sambharam’– butter milk with all native ingredients like the leaves of lime tree, chopped green chilli, ginger and curry leaves mixed with salt – to people reeling under a scorching sun.
“The ‘sambharam’ is very tasty and the flavour beckons us to drink more. The summer heat draws hundreds of people to his table and as the taste lingers, we wish to drink more and more,” says Harinarayanan, who savoured the butter milk at the Kottayi temple festival.