Kerala daily wage worker C C Kannan has spent 25 years trying to make his locality greener by planting fruit trees and flowers in Anganwadis, on roadsides, barren lands, etc. The award-winning green warrior shares what drives him to do this.
From when he was a little boy, CC Kannan began planting flowers and ornamental plants around his house in Ernakulum’s East Marady area. Now 54, he says, “Plants make me happy. My love for them has only grown with time.”
The daily wage labourer says that for the past 25 years, he has actively been planting tree saplings and flowers in public areas, barren lands, and on roadsides.
“Whenever I see a garden full of flowers, I get excited. As there is not enough space to set up a big garden near my house, I cleaned a nearby barren land near MC Road and planted several varieties. All these were collected from friends and neighbours without spending any money,” he says.
This was over 10 years ago, and eventually, new road development projects uprooted his hard work. But nothing could stop this green warrior — he began planting fruit trees on the road side. In all, he planted 50 or so, he says, and would wake up early each morning to take pots filled with water to the area, before heading for work.
“But one day, I was devastated to see that all the saplings had been uprooted. The panchayat authorities, who are aware of my activities, even proceeded with a case but no one was found guilty,” recalls Kannan.
For happiness and the future
“Even though the incident shattered me, I was not ready to stop my work. Instead of planting on roadsides, I chose pre-schools and Anganwadis of the locality. This way, children can be taught the importance of growing trees too,” shares Kannan.
After received a thumbs up from panchayat authorities, he began visiting schools in his area with saplings of guava, mango, rambutan, papaya and water apple. These were planted by the students under his supervision in the campus, and he instructed them on how to take care of the plants. Kanna would visit each Anganwadi once a week to check the growth.
“Unlike a few adults who find it ‘fun’ to uproot growing plants, children are curious to see their growth. Some even ask their parents to grow these plants at home. I think this is the way we can bring about a change,” he says.
“Till date, I have planted more than 100 tree saplings in 13 anganwadis in and around the locality. I now get calls from schools in other districts to plant trees. I am more than happy to oblige,” he adds.
He also says that all the saplings are sourced from the Karshika Karma Sena in his panchayat, of which Kannan is a member. He says he is notified when a stock of fruit plants arrives, and he collects them as needed. Parents and teachers also sponsor the plants in each Anganwadi.
Aside from planting trees, Kannan works a number of daily wage jobs, including tree climbing and farming. He also manages the eco shop set up by the Karshika Karma Sena on a part-time basis.
“I was a little embarrassed in the beginning to plant in public places. But this soon turned to pride. When I was in school, environment day and sevana vaaram on Gandhi Jayanti were my favourite occasions. What started as a once in a year thing has now turned into a routine for me.”
“Everyday, at least one person asks me why I do this. My answer is — for happiness. When everybody is living for themselves, I think at least some should think about the environment and how to preserve it for future generations. When I began these activities 25 years ago, I managed everything myself. Now I have a team of eight. Let this be a beginning. I hope the kids in these Anganwadis will lead the way in no time,” says Kannan.
For his services and contributions to nature, Kannan was presented the 25th P V Thampy Memorial Endowment Award for Environment Protection in November 2022. “The award was truly unexpected. It is also a boost to continue the activities till my last breath,” he says.
Kannan’s future plan is to associate with more schools including lower primary, upper primary and high school. He also hopes that more people would join him in the mission to build a greener world.
Edited by Divya Sethu; Photo credits: C C Kannan