By P.T. Bopanna
It is heartening to note that a Kodavathi (Coorg woman) is winning accolades for working towards green causes in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu.
Somayanda Samantha Iyanna (in picture) is part of “Clean Coonoor” initiative which promotes environment awareness in the community.
Samantha, along with a few like-minded people who saw their beloved Nilgiris being trashed by the numerous tourists visiting the region, felt they could make a difference. The group decided to concentrate on just Coonoor, instead of spreading their wings across the Nilgiris.
Clean Coonoor has done numerous cleanups, be it the roads, storm water drains, rivers, forests, waterfalls, railway station or tourist attractions. They also have a solid waste management unit and a recycling unit where waste is segregated into wet and dry. Byproducts like compost and oil to run machines are generated. Waste collection centers have been set up around town where people can drop off waste. They also run garbage pickup services along with the municipality’s help. They have been instrumental in banning plastic in the Nilgiris. They have in the process given employment to many in Coonoor.
Several corporates are now coming forward to help fund the organisation which is a NGO. Clean Coonoor also runs cleanup drives with students and young adults, trying to instill the values they would like to pass on.
Samantha is passionate about planting native trees and trying to get back the marshy grasslands the Nilgiris was once famous for. The ecosystem of the Western Ghats was once abundant with native medicinal plants and a very unique landscape.
Their waste management unit boasts of a stunning garden which won them awards at the annual Flower Show.
During the pandemic, the NGO played a big part in the management of the crisis and the Nilgiris was a case study in Tamil Nadu for having the lowest number of cases and being the best managed.
Samatha is also on the board of Kinder Trust that works with children with special needs. Being a butterfly enthusiast, she started a Butterfly Park in Coonoor. Murals have been done all over Coonoor depicting the history of the Nilgiris and of the flora and fauna of the area beautifying the town.
Awards and recognition have come her way, including the Green Champion Award from the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, followed by the “Sushma Swaraj Award” felicitating Women Achievers for her valuable contribution and recognition in outstanding Public Service.
For more details on the work carried out by Clean Coonoor, log on to www.cleancoonoor.org
There are several green enthusiasts in Kodagu. Samantha should share her experience with the local Kodagu community, starting from Chettali, the native place of her grand-parents.
She could even tie-up with the Clean Coorg Initiative which has been active in championing the cause of green and clean Kodagu.
From experience I can say most of these initiatives in Kodagu lose their steam over a period of time, maybe because they fail to get cooperation from the elected bodies.