Kerala’s been in the news of late. No surprise, given the devastating floods that claimed over 300 lives and displaced a good chunk of the population, or the efficient way in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s government has responded to the same, or the serious questions about the disaster raises about the long-term sustainability of the state’s development trajectory.
My personal favourite, though, is the one about the completely sustainable village. Thuruthikkara in Mulanthuruthy panchayat (in Ernakulam district) is the state’s sole Green Village; what’s even more amazing is that they achieved this target in just three months.
Thuruthikkara was the first success story of the Oorja Nirmala Haritha Gramam initiative, which was begun by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishat in October 2017. Following the village’s gallop to Green Village status by January 2018, the initiative was expanded across the state.
The village has shifted en masse to LED lighting systems (as opposed to incandescent bulbs) to save energy; furthermore, they have LED clinics where they assemble and even repair the bulbs. Drinking water wells are regularly recharged with rainwater, and kitchen waste is composted and used an manure in homestead farming.
The people of Thuruthikkara are no stranger to environmentally-conscious initiatives: the village had already had tags like plastic-free, e-waste-free and filament-free even before the Haritha Gramam initiative.
Too little has been written about Nagaland’s own recent bout of floods. Unfortunately, that isn’t my focus today either. I’m here to talk about happier things.
India’s first Green Village was Khonoma in Nagaland. Known as Khuwnoria in the language of the resident Angami tribe, Khonoma is in fact Asia’s first Green Village. Twenty years ago, the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (KNCTS) was established to curb hunting that was affecting the wildlife of the region, and also to preserve the forest cover against the efforts of the timber industry.
In stark contrast to places in India that cry ‘tradition’ in the face of progress, the people of Khonoma set about gradually eradicating the long-standing tradition of hunting in order to promote sustainability and biodiversity.
Being Clean is a natural part of being Green, and it’s not just limited to energy. Sanitation is an important aspect of sustainability, and it’s something that every person is Khonoma takes seriously. Saturday morning litter-picking is carried out by the school children every two weeks, an activity launched by the Khonoma Students’ Union since the village was officially declared Green on October 25, 2005 (two days from now is the 13th anniversary!).
It’s not always about limitations– these are villages, they’re less developed than cities so being sustainable isn’t such a problem– we know. But both Khonoma and Thuruthikkara had their own obstacles to overcome before they could become sustainable and earn that Green Village tag. And they did.
A desire to change isn’t all you need, but it definitely goes a long way.