School teacher distributes 10,000 saplings in Gaja-hit areas

Nagapattinam: What’s equally important to that of a relief measure, for a geography that has lost its major resource to a disaster is retaining the same. In this case, Cauvery delta’s huge loss during the landfall of Cyclone Gaja was its green cover. Even the State government could not find a mechanism to calculate the number of coconut, mango, tamarind and other trees that were uprooted or destroyed by the 165 kmph wind – the loss has gone literally uncountable.

So, this Government school teacher, Arasamani Rathakrishnan from Ayakkaranpulam village, near Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district, wanted to bring up an immediate remedy for this. Guess what he did? He started to distribute 50,000 tree saplings to the people of the district.

“I received relief funds from all my friends in the non-disaster-hit areas. Their intention was to offer food and basic life support to the victims. However, I told them that relief measures are being taken up by many volunteers and the State government to a large extent. What we need to focus on now is rehabilitation,” said Arasamani when this News Today correspondent met him at Ayakkaranpulam.

Arasamani had told his friends that he will buy saplings to help the affected people have a livelihood in the future. “So, I thought of distributing saplings of commercial crops like coconut and mango. People here have no issues with this or they do not need special training for maintaining trees. It is that they lack financial stability to buy a sapling now. So, I wanted to give minimum support for that,” the teacher said.

Arasamani said, “From the funds raised, we have distributed 10,000 saplings till now. So far, eight major villages around Vedaranyam, Ayakkaranpulam, Panjanathi Kulam and Maruthur in the district have been covered. With more funds yet to come, I am planning for 40,000 more saplings to be distributed to other areas of southern Nagapattinam.”

Of the 10,000, 3,000 coconut saplings and 7,000 mango saplings have been given to over 4,500 families in the area. It is not like the usual relief work, but Arasamani cites organised procedure. “We would issue two to three saplings per family – but only if they produce a ration card to prove their nativity. We also want to avoid duplication of beneficiaries. Since the funds were offered by a big, independent, volunteering community called, ‘Delta Kuzhu Nanbargal’, it has to be accounted properly. The cost of purchase and transportation itself is up to Rs 5 lakh for every 10,000 saplings,” Arasamani said.

He added that it will also bring responsibility among the beneficiaries, who will be more careful when raising the limited resource they have.

However, not stopping there, he has a plan for the entire area. “These trees that we have distributed now go only for domestic use. There is a whole lot of space in the area that lost trees. Especially, the roadsides and barren lands. So, by February 2019, we have planned to plant 5,000 more saplings along the Vedaranyam-Vaimedu Main Road,” said Arasamani.

He also wants to ensure that these saplings are safe. “So, we have planned to fence them with the support of commercial sponsors who can donate. It will at least cost Rs 5 to Rs 7 lakh,” he added.

When asked what kind of other rehabilitation measures he will undertake, Arasamani said, “As of now, the State government has ensured that they will address all kinds of loss faced by school students by providing school bags, books, notebooks and stationery items. So, I am finding donors who would be able to rebuild the houses of the students who lost them. Most houses here are thatched roof cottages. Rebuilding them will not cost much. But, all they need is people who can extend their helping hands.”

He also informed that a lot of students have lost their clothes including school uniforms . “So, even buying them dresses would be of great help,” according to the teacher.

Working as a teacher in Theni Middle School, Maruthur, Arasamani Rathakrishnan can be reached at 6380256985.

Santhosh Mathevan