RAMESWARAM: M Lakshmi (49) has come a long way, from one who collects seaweed for a living to a panchayat union ward member. In the local body elections, she entered the fray on a DMK ticket and won by a margin of 133 votes in Mandapam panchayat union.
Born in Chinnapalam, a fishing hamlet near Pamban, she used to accompany her father, a fisherman, and mother, a seaweed collector, into the sea at the age of seven and started collecting seaweeds herself when she was 10.
“Initially, we would collect seaweed from the islands in the Gulf of Mannar on all days except on occasions when there is rain or windstorm.
"Concerned over the over-exploitation of marine life due to our seaweed collection throughout the year, we decided to restrict it. From 2013, everyone from Chinnapalam and the neighbouring hamlets collect seaweeds only for six days from the full moon day and six days from the new moon day. This apart, we do not venture into the sea during the fish breeding season in April and May.”
Seacology, a US-based environment non-profit organisation, awarded Lakshmi ‘Seacology Prize’ in October 2015 for her contribution towards marine resource conservation in India. The prize carried USD 10,000 (Rs 6.5 lakh) cash award and a glass trophy.