‘Osai’ echoes over the Western Ghats

K Kalidasan from Coimbatore is a wildlife board member and head of an NGO, which has always been a front-runner in opposing projects that are detrimental to the environment
K Kalidasan
K KalidasanPhoto|S Senbagapandiyan

COIMBATORE : The loud horns of a chugging train or the serene views from the window seat barely caught the attention of K Kalidasan. The 56-year-old was lost in a daunting thought on his way back from Chennai. He was worried over the capital city’s water woes and the picture of Chennaiites buying can water to meet their daily needs left him pondering.

Well-known among his peers as a green warrior who dedicated over two decades of his life to preserve flora and fauna, Kalidasan stands tall when it comes to selfless contributions and services towards forest and wildlife. Serving as a wildlife board member, he also heads ‘Osai’ (sound), a Coimbatore-based NGO, which has always been a front-runner in opposing projects that are detrimental to the environment. This nature lover also seeks intervention of the chief minister, forest department heads, collectors, among others, against such anti-nature moves, while working in tandem with the environmentalists of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa to save the Western Ghats.

Though a graduate in Physics, Kalidasan always had a liking for Tamil literature, and was inspired by Poovulagin Nanbargal Neduncheliyan and Jayachandran of the Tamil Green Movement, who in turn shifted his focus towards nature. Despite taking up the job of a junior assistant at a nationalised bank in the 1990s, Kalidasan was keen on keeping his inner fire ablaze to serve nature. In 2000, he quit his job and stepped into the shoes of a full-time environmentalist.

“When I got to know about the state of Chennai water crisis, I realised how fortunate Coimbatore residents are, as we have been gifted with the Siruvani waterfalls. Later on, I started focussing more on water resources and was amazed by the rarities of the Western Ghats. The entire south India, not just Coimbatore, depends upon the Western Ghats for water resources, and I knew I had to do something to preserve this gift,” says Kalidasan, a two-time member of the State Board for Wildlife.

As per Kalidasan, Tamil Nadu should restrict unnecessary constructions in the Nilgiris and set an example for Kerala and Karnataka
As per Kalidasan, Tamil Nadu should restrict unnecessary constructions in the Nilgiris and set an example for Kerala and Karnataka Photo | FIle pic

What followed was an array of services, including the provision of assistance to the forest department for conducting the wildlife census in 2005. Joining hands with the TN Green Movement, Osai played a major role in preventing the implementation of the Union government’s proposal for a new train service connecting Mettupalayam and Samrajnagar via the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve.

“During the census, we found as many as 10-12 tigers existed in the Sathyamangalam forest, which was not even declared a sanctuary back then. In the case of the new train route, most people were in support of the project. However, we opposed the move as it would have hindered free movement of animals,” said Kalidasan, who had also appealed to the Union government team to opt for a different route connecting Sathyamangalam and Erode railway station.

After long talks, the central team caved in and decided to drop the proposal for a route via the tiger reserve, much to the credit of Osai. This is an isolated incident as Osai has more such feats in its kitty. For instance, in 2002, Osai teamed up with a farmers’ association, TN Green Movement, traders’ groups and other political outfits, and staged a stir in Anaikatti against Kerala’s attempt to construct a check dam at Mukkali, which led to eventual dropping of the proposal.

According to Kalidasan, the TN government should restrict unnecessary constructions and road widening activities in the name of development across the Nilgiris, and set an example for the neighbouring states of Kerala and Karnataka. “Nilgiris is the major water source of Kongu region, and if the former’s environment is tampered with, direct consequences are certain. Hence, development work should be prohibited in Nilgiris, and a separate policy must be formulated to protect hilly regions’ environment,” appealed Kalidasan, who has also served as a member of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation and the TN State Coastal Zone Management Authority.

As a person who has given lectures regarding environmental conservation and global warming to over six lakh students over the past 25 years, this nature enthusiast stands firm on his goal to hand over the beauty of Western Ghats to the generations yet to come in the next 100 years and more.

(Edited by Arya A J)

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