Earth Day Musings For Santhivanam

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Today  is April 22..we, a group of children are sitting in a room after a sultry morning with rain clouds in the skies and a silence in the air. We are discussing the theme of this year’s Earth day which is PROTECT OUR SPECIES. This theme means to draw attention to the rapid rate of extinction of living beings- plants, trees, animals, birds, bees and butterflies not to speak of innumerable tiny creatures all over the world caused by human activities.

Last month, some of us in this city were shocked to know that a tree growing in the Government Guest House campus marked to be cut as it was found to harm a recently constructed building belonged to the CRITICALLY ENDANGERED AGAR WOOD which has been exploited indiscriminately for the fragrance that the wood emanates. The tree which is more than 50 years old stood in the campus in all glory casting shade with its wide and lush canopy.  We collected signatures and wrote a petition to the Chief Minister and all concerned people. It is only then we realised the worth of a single tree and how protecting it is a message of hope and stewardship of our human race.

coromander marsh dart

As we sit together, our thoughts go to the group of children who have been lucky enough to have a forest filled with rare and unique species at their doorstep. The SANTHIVANAM in North Paravur is a 2 acre space with 3 sacred groves and 3 ponds that has been protected by its owners for over 4 decades as a learning centre of biodiversity conservation. It amazes us to know that the children have rare and endemic birds like Nilgiri Thrush at their doorstep, that they wake up to the calls of Paradise Flycatchers and watch the evening fade with the cries of Indian Pitta and Orange headed thrush. This grove has as visitors birds classified as Near Threatened like Black headed Ibis and Oriental Darter. How thrilling it must be to watch the Eurasian Hoopoe flit on the ground with its hoopoe calls, to see the rare Rufous woodpecker tap at the tree barks for a meal, to hear the Scaly breasted Munia and Grey bellied Cuckoo.

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The humid and cool microclimate of Santhivanam makes it the refuge of many a butterfly and dragonfly. Of the 154 species of butterflies seen in this space, the ones like Malabar Banded Swallowtail, the Malabar Banded Peacock and Southern Short banded Sailer have been classified as Rare. The highest rate of endemism in the scared grove conclave is in the tree and plant diversity. From small wild turmeric , herbaceous plants like Koonapala and Ixoras to huge trees like Malabar black varnish and Chaulmurga, these plants speak of the unique and precious habitat that Western Ghats provide. The endangered White Dammar and Malabar Iron wood, both of which is part of the natural ecosystem of Santhivanam speaks volumes about the need to protect this space for coming generations to come.

220px Papilio buddha Westwood 1872 – Malabar Banded Peacock at Peravoor 1

We feel so humbled to learn about the diversity and richness of the low land evergreen ecosystem  thatSanthivanam represents. It is indeed a point to be appreciated that instead of selling this land and making a fortune, the owners named it Santhivanam and made it into a learning centre for young students and naturalists. It is on the basis of such an initiative that reliable and scientifically solid studies were done here by Kerala Forest Research Institute, National Natural History Museum, Cochin Natural History Society along with independent researchers over many  years.

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We are shocked, indignant, angry and upset with the way in which the Kerala State Electricity Board has won legal support to draw a 110 KV line over this Forest Of Peace when there are more viable alternate paths available.

We wonder why those who speak of development for the future generations do not ask us what we want. We want pure air, water, peaceful spaces where birds and butterflies roam free, where tree grow exhaling life giving oxygen. We want our city to have a place like Santhivanam where we can go and sit in a stress free mood to make friends and find ourselves away from the madding crowds.

We need less of energy guzzling shopping malls and more of energy rich spaces that will make us healthier, peaceful and happier.  This is our appeal on Earth Day as we decide to observe and document such spaces and species in our city.

Please join us and write a crisp, simple message to the Chief Minister of Kerala – SAVE SANTHIVANAM IN NORTH PARAVUR, ERNAKULAM , KERALA. [email protected]

Anitha.S in conversation with Lekshmi, Ashok, Meenakshi, Suresh, Abhay, Adityan, Nivedita, John, Advaith, Roshan, Ishan, Abdu, Santhi, Renu and many children



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