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BestOf2023: Environment Heroes Fighting for the Future of Our Planet

From single-handedly cleaning oceans to braving land mafia threats to grow forests, The Better India's 'Environment Heroes of the Year' emerged as true champions of change in 2023.

BestOf2023: Environment Heroes Fighting for the Future of Our Planet

At a time when we silently continue to witness the unprecedented crisis posed by climate change, a few citizens have emerged as real champions of change. The Better India has curated a list of eight environment heroes of the year who left a lasting impact on our planet this year.

1) Binu Punchakkari

Despite the Vellayani Lake in Kerala being the primary source of drinking water for at least five panchayats, no one showed interest in protecting it. A welder by profession, Binu Punchakkari built a boat and a crane for picking up waste from the lake, and an electric bush cutter to eliminate the weeds. He has single-handedly removed 650 kg of plastic waste from the lake.

2) Jeeth Milan Roche

In 2020, Jeeth was heading the tech team at an IT company when he hit a rough patch in life. He would spend a lot of time at home, “feeling depressed”. In order to come out of the state, he stepped out for a walk and found the green cover lacking around the area. This is when he thought of planting a few saplings and to date, he has not stopped. Every year, he plants at least 12,000 trees in Mangaluru.

3) Abdul Ahad Khan

A daily wager turned ‘Father of Chinars’, Abdul is on a mission to protect Kashmir’s iconic Chinar tree that was fast diminishing in the valley. Over the past 15 years, he has planted more than 300 chinars and has also become a part of the state forest department’s campaign of planting over 1,000 chinars in the forests of Kupwara.

4) Gurpreet Singh

A teacher and a nature enthusiast, Gurpreet noticed the number of declining birds in Fardikot, Punjab. He decided to plant more trees in the semi-desert area and in hopes of attracting birds, he also placed mud nests on the trees. Today, these 30,000 nests are home to lakhs of indigenous birds of 14 different species such as myna, owls, sparrows, house sparrows, parrots, bulbul, and pigeons.

5) Murukesan

When fisherman Murukesan understood the vital link between increasing cyclones along the coastline and the declining mangroves, he embarked on a mission to plant mangroves along Kerala’s shorelines and remains dedicated to this cause. Known as the ‘Mangrove Man’ in Kochi, he has planted more than one lakh mangroves along the shores of Kochi.

6) Aravind Tharunsri

A scuba diving instructor by profession, Aravind has been cleaning the bottom of the ocean for the past 20 years. He advocates for marine conservation and has also been encouraging his daughter to be part of his efforts to clean the ocean. So far, he has collected 30,000 kg of plastics from the ocean.

7) Bheraram Bhakhar

A government school teacher in Rajasthan, Bheraram has been planting thousands of trees across the Thar desert to prevent further desertification. Interestingly, he has engaged at least 1.3 lakh citizens to promote the concept of family forestry and letting trees thrive. In the last nearly three decades, he has planted more than 4.28 lakh trees to maintain Thar’s ecological balance.

8) G Srikanth

Tamil Nadu’s G Srikanth singlehandedly grew a forest on a 25-acre land near the Palar river. On the way, he faced threats by the land mafia and politicians, had his trees cut, and was beaten, but nothing shook him. Starting by planting 1,000 trees in 2018, today he has planted over 15,000 trees in Vellore, creating three forests.

Edited by Padmashree Pande.

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