KOLLAM: Disheartened by Kerala’s receding shoreline, especially in his native Vypeen, T P Murukesan has been on a mission to save the mangrove trees in the state. For he knows crucial role that the trees play in combating such ecological challenges.
In fact, he realised their importance at a young age while witnessing the devastating impact of sea erosion and flooding in Vypeen island. “The rise in sea level and severe tidal floods compelled many families in my neighbourhood to relocate to higher ground over the years. Tidal flooding occurs when the rise in sea level combined with local factors, pushes water levels above the normal high tide mark,” Murukesan, 58, known locally as the ‘Mangrove Man’, told TNIE.
He said mangroves serve as a natural coastal defence system against sea level rise, tides, and storm surges. “During my childhood, mangrove forests were in abundance in Vypeen. They not only acted as a barrier between our island and the sea, but also protected us from floods and sea erosion. Mangrove trees are deeply intertwined with our lives, and if we fail to safeguard them, our island will fall victim to these natural calamities. We already see the islanders facing these challenges. The most eco-friendly solution in front of us is to protect and nurture the mangrove trees,” Murukesan said.
Murukesan’s journey towards mangrove conservation began in 2013, when he started working with the social forestry department. There, he familiarised himself with mangrove tree nursery plantations. He established his own mangrove nursery at Malippuram in 2014, where Murukesan successfully nurtured over 80,000 saplings.
Emphasising the need to raise public awareness on the importance of mangrove trees, Murukesan said, “Most of us are unaware of the critical role played by mangrove forests. This lack of awareness allows government and private entities to continue destroying these valuable ecosystems. Even in Vypeen, mangrove trees are being cut down. But there won’t be a public outcry as people are unaware of their significance.”
At present, Murukesan is associated with the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, a non-government organisation based in Chennai. He said working with the government has its limitations, and he finds greater fulfilment in his association with the foundation.
“The foundation is doing an incredible job in safeguarding mangrove forests. It is engaged in establishing and protecting mangrove trees across the state. With a clear vision in mind, they have already identified the areas requiring significant attention. I believe my contributions are most effective when collaborating with the foundation,” he said.
Journey to conservation