T. Sobindran, a 60-year-old Economics professor, who planted more than one lakh trees in Kozhikode district of Kerala, wins the prestigious Indira Priyadarshini National Vriksha Mitra Award this year.
His endeavor in channelising the creative impulses of youngsters for productive purposes is evident as you walk through the narrow track leading to Zamorin's Guruvayurappan College, one of the oldest educational institutions in Kozhikode City. The 120-acre campus, which was a rocky barren land with a number of concrete structures till a few decades back, is now turning as a botanical garden with a rich variety of trees and plants.
The green campus is exceptional in terms of the number of gigantic trees and it stands as a living testimony to the selfless hard work of T. Sobindran, a former professor with the Economics Department of the college. The professor, clad in dark green, had visualized Campus Research Centre (CRC), an unofficial platform where students and teachers can shed their inhibitions and work as a team for the common good of the academic community, around twenty years back.
The CRC has succeeded in providing a face-lift to the then barren campus by plating trees, ensuring better access to water for both students and the planted trees and inviting artists and sculptors from outside to join hands with the talents in the college to do artistic works in the rich green ambience of the college. Now, the campus has also turned into an open art gallery with numerous sculptors and statues. The paintings, which were done at the artists' camps, have been displayed in a separate gallery.
Sobindran had started all these efforts at a time when even the availability of drinking water for students was a major problem of the water starved college. He has not only resolved the drinking water scarcity but also succeeded in ensuring sufficient greenery in the campus thus creating a congenial milieu for academic pursuits. He has turned a role model for students in constructive purposes and they stood solidly behind him whenever he initiated any project with environmental or artistic concern.
The statue of a girl in though process, established at the very entrance of the college six years back, is the largest sculptor of its kind to adorn any educational institution in the country. It took 11 years, Rs 6 lakh and six different sculptors to complete the statue. Though the lack of sufficient finance had delayed the works of the statue for a few years, Sobindran's convictions were the ultimate winners. Among the other notable statues built under the leadership of Sobindran on the campus is that of Buddha under a Bodhi tree. Another life-size statue of a girl was installed in 1992 in front of the college library as a lamp post. A greeting statue, made out of laterite, was installed in 1993. Sobindran was also the driving force behind ACK Raja Memorial All-Kerala Artists' Camp, an annual week long get together of leading artists in Kerala and talents from different colleges inside the Guruvayurappan College campus to give went to their artistic impulses.
Apart from the installation of the statues and planting of more than 15,000 trees in the campus, Sobindran had led an initiative of students to plant shade giving trees on both sides of the busy mini-bypass road in Kozhikode. That effort also was an instant success.
As college level programme officer of National Service Scheme of Union Government, he created history in the nineties by making an artificial pond inside Tholpetty Range of Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary to quench thirst of elephants during the peak of summer. Built with the manual work of students, the pond has become a path breaker. He has also channelised the student energy to construct check dams in Muthanga and Noolpuzha in Wayanad to construct check dams, which were aimed at preserving water for the sake of both poor people living close to the forests and of course the wildlife.
After retirement, Sobindran has undertaken a huge task of greening Sathyadarsana Sailam, another major hill with barren rocky lands in Kozhikode district. He has begun the planting works recently. Busy with planting trees in any possible spot in the district, he gives importance to planting trees on the banks of ponds and rivers. He is now associated with Green World Village Research centre set up on the banks of Punoor River at Vengeri, 7 km from Kozhikode.
``It is an effort to save the Punoor River. We were able to prevent sand mining and dumping of waste on the stretch before planting trees on its banks,' he said. Due to his efforts, thousands of kids are learning to swim in the river. ``Bring rivers close to our life. Then they will never perish,' he says.
Apart from the tree planting and conservation efforts, Sobindran is also in the forefront of agitations against willful degradation of environment. He has been part of the anti-Coca Cola movement in Plachimada, peoples' solidarity against proposed Pathrakadavu hydel electric project near Silent Valley National Park and pollution related agitation against Kozhikode Corporation's unscientific dumping ground at Nheliyanparamba. He is also in the process of unifying all environmental organizations in Kerala to streamline agitations meant for protecting the air, water and soil.
Now, he is the winner of the prestigious Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award instituted by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The award, comprising a cash prize of Rs 1.25 lakh besides a plaque and citation, is undoubtedly a recognition for his yeoman works, which remained unnoticed till then due to his lack of interest in promotional and publicity works. A great cheer goes up from the saplings he planted in and around Kozhikode.