Murukesan, known as the ‘Mangrove Man’ in his community in Kochi, discovered the vital link between declining mangroves and increasing cyclones along the coastline. A decade ago, he embarked on a mission to plant mangroves along Kerala's shorelines and remains dedicated to this cause.
Locals in his neighbourhood call him the ‘Mangrove Man’. Kochi-based Murukesan couldn’t be prouder to carry the title. Having fished since the age of 20, Murukesan’s fondness for the coastline only grew with time.
In the years that followed, however, his attention was drawn to an interesting correlation between the decline in mangroves and the increase in cyclones.
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The plant species were multipurpose. They not only act as great antibacterials and antihelminths but their roots also help fish breathe. Amidst the many benefits of mangroves, however, is their role in combating climate change. Touted as the first line of defence against flooding and erosion, the plants reduce the chance of hurricanes. They act as a fence of nature.
In Murukesan’s eyes, this is a boon for society.
“If we want to build a wall along the stretch of Kerala sea shore which is 500 plus kilometres, it will cost a huge amount. Instead, we can plant mangroves, which will act as a green belt. It will be more cost-effective,” he says.
When the ‘Mangrove Man’ started the massive feat one day in 2013, the task ahead seemed humungous. But today 10 years later, the green belt smiles back at him.
In his endeavour, Murukesan was supported by groups such as the Swaminathan Foundation and Grassroot. His work can be seen across Cherai, North Mulavakkad, Vallarpadam and Chellanam.
Today, more than one lakh mangroves line the shores of Kochi thanks to Murukesan and his efforts. And he does not intend to stop anytime soon. He wishes to continue planting mangroves for the rest of his life and encourages others to do the same.
He takes no credit for his work. “I’ve only studied till Class 8. But if the people of Kerala and the world know me, it is because of my work. What else do I need?” Instead, he encourages people to plant at least 10 mangrove saplings each year.
Edited by Pranita Bhat