A dedicated bunch of 18 villagers, love for the environment and years of hard work can turn barren land into a verdant one. This is what one can learn from Apeetha Arunagiri, an Australian woman who has embarked on making the Tiruvannamalai hill greener. As the old Tamil adage goes, seldom are we aware of the smell of jasmine in our backyard. For years, the lower slopes of the Tiruvannamalai hill were barren, except for some scattered shrubs. Apeetha first came to Tiruvannamalai from Australia in the 1960s. A researcher by profession and passionate about ecological conservation, Apeetha, during her subsequent visits to the town, was saddened to see the condition of the hill. “I was attracted by the spirituality of the place. When I saw the hill, I thought that such a majestic hill should not be left barren,” said Apeetha, who took a Hindu name after deciding to live in Tiruvannamalai. With the help of some locals, she started work on a nursery in 1985, and formally registered the Arunachala Reforestation Society (ARS) in 1989. “I am from the countryside, so I know the value of the eco-system. We get funding from the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia, and now you can see greenery in the foothill,” she said. Her campaign helped in creating employment for the locals. Later, she started the Kaatu Shiva Plantation in 2003. Around 50,000 saplings have been planted till date under the project. “By planting more trees, the groundwater level will increase and there will be plenty of water. This is only the beginning — the hill is vast,” she said. Kasi, a local who works on the Kaatu Shiva Project, said the project was providing jobs and sustenance to more than 14 families. “If we get more funding, we can employ more people and make the hill greener,” he said.
Labels: Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu