On bus number 70 of Tamil Nadu State Road Transport, you will meet a bus conductor, known as The Tree Man, who has been driving the real change. He is loved and respected by everyone for his selfless work for the environment.
Meet M Yoganathan who has been working from past three decades to save the environment. In the past years, he has planted more than three lakhs trees from his own income across 32 districts in Tamil Nadu. He spends 40 percent of his monthly salary for buying saplings and educating children in local schools and colleges about the environment.
Fight for nature
Yoganathan comes from a middle-class family. During his school days, he would sit under the trees in scorching heat, writing poems on nature. His fight started in 1987 when he was in the Nilgiris. He staged a protest against the wood mafia in Kottagiri and campaigned against trees being cut for food fire.
Yoganathan could not continue his education after STD 12 but never stopped learning from mother nature. He would quickly grasp every information about the environment.
Since the past 15 years, he has been doing a full time job as a bus conductor but still makes time to plants trees. “On my weekly off, Monday, I go plant trees in all educational institutes like schools, colleges, and universities,” he said to The News Minute.
Educating children about environment
Yoganathan follows a simple strategy that brings great results. Every day, after his work shift time, he would carry a laptop with the presentation slides. He travels to various schools, meets student, and presents the slides. “When every time I show them the slides, the students are interested in plant trees themselves,” he says.
Once the students plant the trees, each tree is named after them, encouraging them to visit and take care of the trees time and again. Yoganathan remembered the first tree that he planted in his school, which now stands tall with bright red flowers. Once the trees are planted, he takes details of the student and makes a follow up to water and nurture them.
Till date, he has visited more than 3,700 schools to spread awareness and educate the children about environment and the importance of planting trees.
In spite of the selfless work he does, Yoganathan faces many difficulties. He has to keep shifting places, as he does not have a house of his own. He stays in a rented house with his wife and two children. When he plants trees in the rented house, the owner asks him to leave.
Moreover, the forest department has filed a cases against him for planting trees on side of the road and also stopping them from being cut.
Yoganathan has received 14 awards so far. He was awarded with Eco-Warrior, a State Environment Department Award. Many a time, he couldn’t even go to receive the awards because of lack of funds.
This green crusader has a dedicated a website where all his activities are updated accordingly. He started a movement called Uyir vaazha our Maram which means one tree for each one’s survival. He believes that everyone should plant tree and take care of it. Even though he has not received any financial support, his family’s moral support motivates him to continue the journey.
He observed that until a few years ago, people did not pay for water but now they do. He warns the public to be proactive before we get into a situation where we have to buy air as well.
Most of the trees from his mission are growing steady and healthy. It is everyone’s duty to protect the nature and safeguard the environment for future generations. More people should join hands to make the world green. The biggest advantage that our country posses is the favorable climate condition for life to thrive. If properly executed by millions of Indians, a greener and pleasant India is not far from reality.
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