With the NE monsoon not too far away, these nature forums are sowing palm seeds around lakes and ponds, and even the beach. Here are snapshots of recent exercises

With the onset of north-east monsoon expected next month, many waterbody conservation groups are exercising their green thumbs, planting saplings along lake bunds, ponds and water channels, in Chennai and its outskirts.

That brings the focus back to the Palmyra tree with its fibrous root system that is known for its bund-strengthening qualities. Palmyra is known in inland and coastal trees for their soil-binding quality.

Therefore, besides waterbodies, they recommend themselves for coastal belts. Last Sunday, Ambattur Neernilaigal Paramarippu Kazhagam, a two-and-a-half year-old forum, planted around 1,500 palmyra saplings along the water channel from Ayapakkam lake to Amabttur lake.

“Next Sunday, we will sow another 1,000 palm seeds around the bunds of the Ambattur lake. Last year, we sowed palm seeds at an artificial island established by the Public Works Department within the Amabttur lake,” says S.P. Nedumaran, founder of the forum.

Similarly, Korattur Yeri Padhukappu Makkal Iyakkam, a four-year-old water-body conservation group, planted around 1,000 palm seeds around Korattur lake last Sunday.

Kakkai Charitable Trust is a two-year-old forum that conducts drives to collect palm seeds.

“There is now a renewed interest in this tree species for various reasons. The roots of palm trees help in the prevention of soil erosion. As a result, our ancestors in their wisdom raised palm trees around lakes and ponds. We are just trying to follow their example. We also provide palm seeds to waterbody conservation groups. We mainly collect them from Kundrathur, Poonamalle, IIT- Madras and Anna University in Guindy. It is also said that in Tamil Nadu, palm trees are now down to one-tenth the number of them found in the 1940s. In the last five years, these trees had been felled in large numbers to pave way for infrastructure projects. Hence, the necessity to preserve them. Another thing that we have come to understand is humankind has to play a huge role in the propagation of this tree species. Because, their seeds are large and they need to be carried and sowed. In the case of trees whose seeds are tiny, birds do that job pretty well. But not where palm trees and their seeds are concerned. So, we have a special responsibility towards this tree species,” says V. Manikandan, founder of Kakkai Charitable Trust.

Last September, the trust organised drives to have palm seeds sowed along Dummi Kuppam in Pattinapakkam and Thiruvanmiyur, coastal neighborhoods; and along the banks of the Adyar river in Kotturpuram.

“In one year, we have sowed around 10,000 palm seeds along the beach. Around 3,000 of them have survived. With palm trees, the coastal hamlets in Kovalam and Mahabalipuram look beautiful. And, we are trying to give our neighbourhood the same charm,” says Magimai Doss, a fisherman at Dummi Kuppam, and a volunteer with the trust.

In Thiruvanmiyur beach, the trust has planted 4,000 seeds, of which 1,000 have sprouted and survived.

“With proper care, we will be able to save at least 500 trees,” says N. Rajasekaran, the trust’s volunteer who is in charge of this work on the Thiruvanmiyur beach.

Another volunteer of Kakkai Charitable Trust N. Siva Kumar says: “There is a need to carry out an enumeration exercise around palm trees in Tamil Nadu. There should be clear-cut rules that would check unnecessary felling of these trees,” he says.

At Kapaleeshwar Nagar in Neelankarai on East Coast Road, resident Siva Kumar Muthulingam has sowed 4,000 palm seeds along the beach.

Says Siva Kumar, “Our colony is situated close to the sea. It is said that a dense stand of palm trees on the coast can help mitigate the impact of a tsunami. I sowed these seeds a week ago.”