As part of their ongoing Award Programme, 30 Award participants of Good Shepherd International School, Ooty partnered with the NGO 'Clean Coonoor Team' to initiate the 'Wetland Restoration Programme' on March 22, 2019, i.e., World Water Day. Sriniketh Krishnan, a Gold Award aspirant narrates the experience of the participants, throwing light on aspects of the environment that we often miss out.
In the vast green lands that encompass the commercial town of Coonoor, one can hardly find anything amiss. Yet, beyond this superficially flourishing ecology, there lurks a dark truth unknown to the inhabitants of the town, that cripples not only the present ecology of the district but blurs future prospects of environmental prosperity. The evasive truth is that all the plants in the ecosystem mentioned above, while seemingly glamorous, are invasive species - aliens - colonising this land and driving out the ecologically more contributory, native species from the district. This truth was what we, along with ‘Clean Conoor Team’, a local citizen voluntary group, set out seeking.
On 22nd March, the Green Team of Good Shepherd International School proceeded to the Yedapalli Marshlands where they were to meet the ‘Clean Coonoor’ team and learn about the importance of marshlands and native species. Initially, upon arrival, the students were veritably puzzled as to how learning about native species had a significance with World Water Day, the two seeming thoroughly unconnected. However, all our doubts were soon dispelled by Clean Coonoor volunteer, Dr. Panchavarnam Vasanthan. Dr. Vasantham explained that the marshland is a key component of the district ecosystem, retaining water, which in turn supports various forms of life that thrive there. This property of water retention is most instrumentally sustained by the presence of native Shola grass which restricts surface runoff and allows for soil penetration. However, with the intrusion of invasive species like Lantana, which do not have soil-fortifying roots, the rate of surface runoff and soil erosion increases, diminishing the very essence of marshlands. Both appalled and intrigued by this, the participants began a short excursion across the marshland with Dr. Vasanthan, identifying the various species (both invasive and native) inhabiting the region and noting the visible depreciation of the marshland.
Soon after this exercise, the students commenced their planned course of action: planting native Shola grass saplings in the marshlands in replacement of uprooted invasive species. Without a moment of hesitation, the students put on their gloves and boots and immersed themselves in the service, relishing taking part in an activity that was both exciting and constructive. They planted over a 1,000 Shola grass pods, contributing to the marshland’s much awaited process of recuperation.
Having completed the task, the participants returned with a profound sense of enlightenment and invigoration, gaining knowledge that not only supplements their curricular study but empowers them and others to be more sensitive about the environment in which they live. Meaningful activities like these have a powerful impact on the youth, stimulating them to take ownership for the problems that abound our world today and preparing them for a sustainable world of tomorrow.