Meet Aruljothi - Nagapattinam’s green warrior
Armed with love for nature, S Aruljothi plants indigenous trees, builds fences strung together with plastic bottles & inspires students across TN to take up fight to restore world’s green cover
Published: 24th April 2022 05:49 AM | Last Updated: 24th April 2022 05:49 AM | A+A A-
NAGAPATTINAM: Aruljothi was distraught in 2018, when the Gaja cyclone hit Tamil Nadu’s shore, and toppled even the oldest trees. Ever since, the 46-year-old teacher from Kolapaadu village in Nagapattinam has been on a mission: to rebuild fast-eroding green cover. A herculean task, by all means. His campaign to plant trees with the help of students, under the aegis of the National Green Corps (NGC), a government-run initiative aimed at spreading environmental awareness among children, has yielded some desired results.
For Aruljothi, love for trees wasn’t a seed that was sown in the recent past. He was into the thick of protecting the ecosystem from his early childhood. Inspired by his teacher Nagaraj and with the support of his family — especially his father Shanmugasundaram — Aruljothi grew up among seedlings. “As a teacher, I am campaigning to conserve the ecosystem,” he says.
With an aim to make the earth a better place, Aruljothi organises two campaigns — ‘Veethithorum Pazhamaram’ (a fruit tree in every house) and ‘Veethithorum Nizhalmaram’ (a shade tree in every street) every year. And, with the help of his students, he has managed to plant at least a tree in 200 houses. In Veethithorum Nizhalmaram, however, he faces trouble maintaining seedlings planted along the roadside. Maintaining planted trees in public places needs more support from people. But he tries to ensure the saplings have enough water to grow, by turning used/old pipes into a device for drip irrigation.
Another initiative by the green activist is planting rare and indigenous trees such as ‘Pungai’ (Indian Beech) and ‘Neermaruthu’ (Arjun), among others around several ponds and schools in Kilvelur block. “Few years ago, I was on an initiative to plant 500 trees on the banks of the Pandavaiyaru River. I didn’t have anyone to help. So, I decided to call volunteers from the nearby village. To my surprise, 50 youths turned up, and many were former students. The incident was heart-touching. It gave me confidence,” says Aruljothi.
Planting trees apart, he has come up with creative ideas to protect nature. When he noticed plastic bags were adversely affecting wildlife, he came up with the idea of using banana leaf sheaths to nurse tree saplings. He distributes these bags to the public.
Similarly, he uses plastic bottles to make fences around houses. He helped many install plastic fences, thus reusing the bottles for a better cause. His programmes such as ‘Plogging” (a combination of jogging with picking up litter) and a mini-marathon to sensitise the public against the use of plastics received widespread attention. His exhibition of flowering plants, fruit trees, and indigenous and rare trees on special days like the World Forest Day has inspired many to take up an environment-friendly way of living.
Aruljothi also created thickets (‘Kurunkaadu’) in the land given by temples, around 3,000 square feet and 1,000 square feet respectively in Valivalim and Nagalur villages and planted saplings like fruit trees like ‘Koiya’ (Guava), ‘Kodukaipuli’ (Camachile), ‘Vila’ (Wood Apple), ‘Seetha’ (Custard Apple) and ‘Madhulai’ (Pomegranate) in the middle and flower trees like ‘Sembaruthi’ (Shoeblack plant), ‘Arali’ (Nerium Oleander) and ‘Kadambai’ (Burflower) in the perimeter. Now, these thickets have become home to many birds and are helping them maintain the environment’s ecological balance.As an appreciation for his efforts, Aruljothi received the special recognition award from the Nagapattinam Collector in 2019 and ‘Pasumai Aarvalar’ award during the Republic Day celebration in 2020.