In the past 10 years, Sreeman Narayanan, a hotel owner from Muppathadam, Aluva, has distributed over one lakh water feeders for birds. He would get earthen pots made from potters in Keezhmadu in Aluva and Thathapilly in Paravur and distribute them to houses and institutions nearby. Every year, he would distribute at least 10,000 such water feeders to various parts of Ernakulam district.
On March 27, 2022, in the 87th episode of Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio show mentioned Narayanan’s work and soon he was flooded with calls. “People and institutions from around the country called me, some gave orders for feeders, some institutions adopted the concept and have implemented it since,” says Narayanan.
Seventy-three-year-old Narayanan is the recipient of the 26th PV Thampy Memorial Endowment Award, which he received on November 15. Instituted by journalist and environmentalist PV Thampy, the award honours ordinary people who have done extraordinary work in environmental conservation. “For the past 25 years, we have been able to identify and acknowledge the efforts of people who have contributed greatly to the environment in their own ways,” says Ranjith Thampy, a socio-environmental activist and the son of P V Thampy. “Narayanan’s ongoing work has been inspirational,” he adds.
Though the feeders are distributed a little ahead of the summer months, Narayanan’s campaign, ‘An earthen pot for life giving water’, helped create awareness on the need to protect bird life in and around the city. He gets orders for these feeders regularly. “I have people contacting me to order 300 to 400 pots. When water sources dry up in summer, birds have to fly long distances in search of water. All we need to do is to put out a pot of water to help a bird survive.”
Since 2013, he has been involved in several greening initiatives in and around Muppathadam. He launched a tree yajna seven years ago and started collecting fruit tree saplings and distributing them every year on June 5 to mark World Environment Day. So far, he has distributed four lakh saplings to individual houses and residential associations. In addition to this, he has distributed 10,000 fruit tree saplings to houses in Muppathadam. “We gave mango and jackfruit tree saplings, which if maintained well, can bear fruit up to 200 years,” says Narayanan.
He ensured that the saplings were planted in these households and had a team of people who would check on their progress. “If more than one tree was planted in a plot, we request the members of the family to leave the fruits of one tree untouched for the birds and squirrels to feed on. If it is just one tree, we ask them to leave the fruits on one branch ,” Narayanan adds. “We named these trees ‘Gandhi trees’ and some of them are bearing fruit,” he adds. Narayanan does not accept sponsorships and buys the saplings to be distributed himself.
As part of the eighth tree yajna, Narayanan aims to distribute one lakh neem trees to one lakh households in Ernakulam district. On June 5 this year, the first phase of the campaign was launched. “Neem trees have medicinal properties and these trees are the need of the hour. They would help bring down air pollution levels. It is said that one neem tree equals 50 trees,” he adds.
His hotel, Dwaraka, has a little reading corner, which he calls the ‘news desk’, where one can find every Malayalam newspaper and two English newspapers. “Those who come here to relish tea, snacks or have a meal, should be able to nourish their minds too,” he says.