Shyam Kumar, an auto rickshaw driver at Thenkurissi in Kerala’s Palakkad district, began planting saplings 20 years ago to do his bit to protect the environment. Recipient of at least 10 awards, Kumar is famous in his sphere as ‘forest minister’ as he plants saplings anywhere and everywhere.
Kumar has now been selected for the 23rd PV Thampy Memorial Endowment Award for Environment Protection in remembrance of journalist and environmentalist PV Thampy. This award will be conferred on him in November 2020.
“I have, till date, planted and nurtured around 23,000 trees at various public places in Palakkad district,” The New Indian Express quoted Kumar as saying.
“I have provided saplings to many places and organisations in other districts, even in Ernakulam’s Mangalavanam,” he added.
His auto rickshaw too spreads messages on afforestation.
“It is hard to convince people regarding the necessity of protecting the environment,” Kumar said.
“I have placed plastic water bottles with tiny holes on the cap near the base of every sapling. At least 10 litres of water is always in my autorickshaw,” he said. Whenever he picks up passengers, he fills up the water bottles on his way back from the drop off. “There is not a place in the district where I haven’t planted a tree,” he added.
Besides being an ardent plant lover, Kumar also adores birds.
“The premises of my house look like a mini bird sanctuary,” Kumar said.
In Palakkad, which is extremely hot in the summers, temperature soars beyond 40 degree Celsius. To ensure that the birds do not remain thirsty, Kumar has placed flat vessels filled with water in various places at his home.
“I even hang up a bunch of plantains for the birds,” he added. According to him, around 34 types of birds visit his place every day. “Besides the birds, animals like snakes, mongoose too come seeking water to quench their thirst,” Kumar said.