KOTTAYAM: It would be no exaggeration to call this wooded sanctuary a haven for nature enthusiasts. Welcome to Mango Meadows, a unique biodiversity park in Ayamkudy near Vaikom in Kottayam. Stroll through the six-and-a-half-kmlong walkway in this man-made green paradise spread across 35 acres, and you can spot rare species like the Ficus alii tree; Beggar’s bowl or calabash (abundant during the time of the Buddha, who is said to have used its gourd as a food bowl), Cinnamomum camphora, from which camphor is produced; Damas tree; kattupoovarash or rhododendron, which is the national tree of Nepal; Elaeocarpus ganitrus, which yields the Rudraksha beads, and many more.
A repository of a wide variety of flora and fauna, the park is the result of the dedication and hard work of N K Kurian, a Gulf-returnee, who reminds one that environment conservation is the responsibility of each person. In his plot surrounded by paddy fields, he has planted more than 4,800 species of plants, including 700 varieties of trees, 85 types of vegetables and 174 fruit-bearing trees, making it one of the richest artificial forests in the country.
Apart from trees, the park also has a variety of fish, cattle, canines, goats, rabbits and ducks, giving it the tag of ‘agricultural theme park’. A civil engineer by profession, Kurian believes he is destined to work for the conservation of trees and Nature. “For me, it is not an overnight achievement,” he told Express. “What you see here is the result of my hard work for the past 14 years. I invested all my earnings here, which I saved from Gulf countries and I travelled more than 15 countries to collect various varieties of plants and trees. I got Ficus alii from Lebanon, Beggar’s bowl from Malaysia and Damas from Dubai,” he said. Interestingly, Kurian developed this park without the help of government machinery.
However, he said he was thankful to several government officials for their personal help in collecting plants from the Western Ghats and other areas. What Kurian teaches the government establishment is that nothing can become a barrier if there is dedication to conserve the environment. Above all, he created this wonder in Upper Kuttanad, a land which lies below sealevel.