Green Cross India
Started as a tree-planting initiative in 2006, Green Cross India today encompasses a wide spectrum of sustainability and conservation issues to empower our youth to forge better tomorrows, says Anirudh Nair.
Photo Courtesy: Green Cross India.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
Some people choose to serve society after they have made a name for themselves in it. Society has given them so much, so it is time to give back, so to speak. While for others, serving society becomes a part of their lives. Aware of the difficult path they have chosen, they are involved and committed, driven only by a passion for change.
Almost a decade ago, lack of knowledge and experience did not deter a group of young environment and wildlife enthusiasts from setting up Green Cross India, a movement that promotes environment protection, wildlife conservation, tribal upliftment, sustainable agriculture and renewable energy in the Erode and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu. What began as a tree-planting initiative by a group of National Cadet Corps, took the formal shape of an organisation that strives to train and empower the youth in sustainable development work.“
It is essential that our policies prioritise ecological development and security. Sustainable development cannot be achieved only by pursuing economic development. A degraded environment cannot support the economic growth we desire and will only risk our survival on this planet,” said A.U. Shyamala Mathavi, Director, Green Cross India.
Green Cross began its wildlife rescue services in 2006, and in 2010, after standard training protocols were provided by Dr. Bryan Grieg along with herpetologist Gerry Martin at the Agumbe Rain Forest Research Station, they recognised that problems arising from ignorance on snake bites were widespread. A lone team wasn’t enough to tackle this massive challenge. This led to the birth of the Rural Snake Safety Campaign. The organisation improved their practices and adopted internationally-accepted methods, which emerged as the National Snakebite Initiative, one of India’s foremost non-profit initiatives to alleviate the rural envenomation crisis, and received the UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund as well, in 2014. The following year, the initiative was launched at the Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam, by P. Durairasu, former Dean and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore.
“Human beings must understand that be it an ant or an elephant, every single species has a right to life and freedom. We can try to study and understand their behaviour, but more importantly, we must respect their need to be left alone,” said Robin Bernard, Founder and CEO of Green Cross India.
Green Cross volunteers conduct safety programmes in local institutions in high-risk regions amongst communities that are prone to snake bites, and have featured in awareness programmes on local and national television channels. They also provide employment training and snake-handling equipment to the anti-poaching squad of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, apart from providing skill-development training to forest, fire and safety officials. Green Cross is also involved in the Tamil Nadu Afforestation Programme, a lantana crafts training programme for rural and forest-dependent communities, peacock conservation, fund raising for tribal welfare and organising eco-tours and treks as part of their conservation education initiatives.
“The act of cutting trees is unmindful, unnecessary and unlawful. Those indulging in it must be punished strictly. Awareness, education and environment action must go beyond mere sloganeering and rallying. Policy changes are required in the urban sector, where sites must be monitored and environmental clearances obtained before any kind of construction begins, so as to ensure that no plant or animal species is harmed,” added Bernard.
Though their activities are primarily based in Erode and Coimbatore, they have extended their outreach programmes in partnership with other NGOs, Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, government forest and fire service units to other parts of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala.
Delighted to welcome more volunteers into their fold, Green Cross India hopes that other groups and wildlife enthusiasts will join hands with them to support their initiatives.
Green Cross India, #107/B PallikaThottam, Chinnavedampatti (PO), Udayampalayam, Coimbatore – 641006. Tamil Nadu, India.
Tel.: +91 90036 33054
Author: Anirudh Nair, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI No. 2, April 2016.