Kozhikode: Mangroves are vital for securing the coastal environment as they can buffet strong waves that erode land. A father-son duo here has been instrumental in nurturing this unique coastal vegetation along the Kadalundi River over two generations.
After famed environmentalist Thayyil Kuttan, alias Kallen Pokkudan, rallied for the conservation of mangroves in Kerala, his son Chandrasekhar has been continuing the legacy for the past 20 years in the Kadalundi coastal village where the eponymous river joins the Arabian Sea on Kerala's western coast.
Until his death at the age of 84, Kuttan fervently worked for the protection of mangroves in Kadalundi. He knew their importance in protecting the lad from erosion, especially caused by the sea. Kuttan and his ancestors were farmers who were heavily dependent on the river.
Kuttan took the initiative to conserve the mangroves near the Kadalundi River despite his demanding work at the agricultural fields. Later he sought the help of the Forest Department to protect these small trees and shrubs after he understood the enormity of the task at hand.
The mangrove protection drive got an official tag to it after a Forest Department office was opened on 3 cents of land, donated by Kuttan, at Feroze Nagar in Kadalundi Town in 1999.
Chandrasekhar continued his father's mission of protecting mangroves after he joined the Kerala Forest Department as a watcher.
The efforts to put in place a Kadalundi-Vallikunnu Community Reserve began when E Pradeep Kumar was the Kozhikode Divisional Forest Officer U Kalnadhan was the Vallikunnu panchayat president during 1999-2000. From then on, it was hard work all the way to conserve mangroves.
The mangroves near Kalalundi River got a legal cover as the Kerala’s first community reserve came up on 21.22 hectares of land in 2008 after overcoming the bottlenecks created by people who were unaware of the ecological significance of mangroves. The reserve has eight varieties of mangroves and close to 34 rare plants.
The mangroves help to protect shorelines against waves and prevent erosion, maintain quality of water and increase fish wealth. The Kadalundi natives realised the might and importance of mangroves when tsunami battered the shorelines in 2004. The thick mangrove vegetation was instrumental in blunting the sheer power of giant tidal waves, and thus easing the attempt of those residing near shorelines to move to safer places.
Subsequently, the local residents supported the efforts to conserve the mangroves, says Thayyil Chandrasekhar.
Other watchers of the Forest Department - K Ayyappan, P N Kunjalikutty and T Krishnan - also root for the protection of mangrove vegetation. They also spread the importance of these trees to school children and nature enthusiasts who visit the area from different parts of the state.