When my schooling started in 1953,we used to celebrate Vana Mahotsav for a whole week. It was started by Sri. K.M.Munshi in 1950. The Netas and all and sundry were then lamenting about the vanishing forests and how it is going to affect rainfall. Global warming, ozone layer, melting ice caps etc had not yet become cult phrases. The monsoon decided the agricultural production as it still does but in those days agriculture accounted for over 70% of the GDP.
So we planted an exotic plant called gliricidia or'sheemakonna' for a whole week. It was known as 'sheemakkonna vaaram'.Besides, on roadsides pits were dug and various plants protected by bamboo meshes were planted with lot of fanfare. The bamboo meshes did not last more than a week before finding its way to someones kitchen as fuel. The roaming goats took care of the plants. Gliricidia which is an invasive shrub survived in some places, shunned even by the goats. The charade lasted a whole week and was repeated year after year. I do not think any substantial tree ever survived.The bamboo mesh in time gave place to wire meshes and even concrete meshes. The contractors prospered but not the plants and the forest cover continued to shrink.
While this was going on, the PWD was busy cutting down all the Mango trees lining the Ottapalam- Cheplaccherry road in front of the NSS High School. The trees were originally planted at the behest of Tipu Sultan. They used to give us children an abundant supply of raw mangoes and many a running battle with "Kurukkan" Bava who used to bid for the crop. We did the running and he the chasing and shouting. The big banyan tree in front of the hospital in which many a 'yakshi' resided in our imagination was also not spared and with it went a large part of our fantasies and dreams. A lesson on hypocrisy from Class I onwards.
Then came social forestry. In one of their innumerable foreign jaunts, some minister came across 'acacia'and decided that it is the ideal plant for greening the state. So 'acacia' was planted everywhere at state cost and the demon plant survived. It provided sticks for the flags and banners for innumerable rallys, marches and jathas of all parties and still survived. All the while it sucked precious ground water and thrived. Reports are coming in from Africa about vast tracts of land where all water sources have dried up because of planting of acacia. Unfortunately,the wood is not good enough to burn the minister who introduced it here or sturdy enough to hang him! It still survives, because it is useless.
After many Sugathakumariees and their "poetry on tap", now it is the turn of "AN UMBRELLA FOR EARTH". Or is it 'Haritha Keralam". If it is an umbrella, then I hope it will be something like the one "Ibrahim and Carrim Son's ltd, Calicut" used to manufacture and not the "poppy" variety. Those sturdy things, with the curved handle used to double as a walking stick and a stick to scare away the stray dogs. It had a brand name 611 or 613 or 501 or something like that. I do hope the trees now being planted are sturdy enough and have a longer life.
The day my mother was cremated at Ivor Madhom, over 150 other cremations took place. A small forest must have been burned on that day. This is happening all over the state, everyday. The Christians and the Muslims are going on scarring the face of Mother Earth and taking up space in prime areas. There should be better ways of getting rid of the rotting corpse which even your loving wife would fear to see.(Shankaracharya).Parsis had a better way,until the vultures started dropping pieces all over Mumbai. And then DDT killed off all of them. Can't we have a few crematoriums?
Meanwhile the farce will go on and on. Sugathakumariees will lament about the loss of the current generation and future generation. There will be panel discussions in TV and in Vanitha etc in which actors in their teens will reminisce about their childhood.Meanwhile, smart guys like Al Gore will become billionaires by narrating inconvenient truths.
When it becomes too inconvenient, Earth will heave a sigh, or shrug her shoulder and with it will disappear a whole vile race, much like the dinosaurs. Let the farce progress to the tragedy in the meantime.