The Change Starts From Your Own House- M Y Yoganathan

M Y yoganathan

The tree that you plant today will provide benefits for years to come. Besides, enhancing the quality of air, planting a tree will simply make you feel good. With one tree plantation, you can support mother earth with agroforestry, land restoration, and afforestation and reforestation activities. Apart from all the organizations and NGOs, we as a responsible citizen should work towards improvement of environment. One such highly inspirational act is done by M.Y. Yoganathan. M Y Yoganathan works as a conductor with the Coimbatore Transport Corporation and does not know how to read or write. Yet, Yoganathan is single-handedly responsible for planting 38,000 trees over the past 26 years. He did not let his illiteracy deter his mission too as this Indian environmentalist went about teaching students the importance of environment conservation in schools across Tamil Nadu.

Yoganathan was born in a poor family in Mayavaram, Thanjavur district. He lost his father when he was just one and a half years old. His mother moved to Nilgiris district to work in the tea gardens, and he stayed with his elder sister’s family to continue his studies.

In those early childhood years, he used to visit his mother in Nilgiris only during the holidays. When he came to class 11, he joined his mother and was admitted into a government school in Kotagiri.

As a school student M Yoganathan fought against the timber mafia in the Nilgiris, pasting handwritten posters in public walls, identifying areas where trees had been felled with their survey numbers and urging the police and forest officials to take action against the offenders.

Thirty years later, at 47, he has the same passion for environmental conservation, but holding a government job as a bus conductor, he has chosen the softer option of tree planting to express his love for nature.

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M Y yoganathanYoganathan started planting trees when he was in Class eight. Somehow, he had to stop his studies after Class 12 but continued to be involved in environmental activities as part of Tamil Nadu Green Movement.

On Mondays, his weekly off-day, Yoganathan would most likely be attending a tree planting programme in some school in the state.

He has planted more than 3 lakh saplings in last 30 years and visited over 3,000 schools spread over 32 districts in the state to conduct environmental awareness programmes. On June 5, World Environment Day, he says, around 5,000 schools in the state responded to his appeal to take an oath to protect the environment and plant at least one sapling in their campus.

He appointed coordinators in all the districts and wrote letters to about 18,000 schools asking them to take a pledge to avoid non-ecofriendly products and plant saplings.
About 2,000 schools planted saplings and 3,000 others students pledged to avoid using firecrackers during Diwali, keeping in mind that tending the saplings is a greater challenge than planting them.

In Kotagiri, he became closely associated with green activist Jayachandran of Tamil Nadu Green Movement, and his association with him only increased his interest in nature conservation.He personally loved to explore forests. He was known to be a dull student, but if anyone tells him anything about nature, he would quickly grasp it. He avidly gobbled up information on flora and fauna, which he now shares with the children he meets in schools.

He personally loved to explore forests. He was known to be a dull student, but if anyone tells him anything about nature, he would quickly grasp it. He avidly gobbled up information on flora and fauna, which he now shares with the children he meets in schools.

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He has his own amazing way of working. He names any new sapling after the child. Suppose Ramu plants a pungai (Indian beech) sapling, he would name it Ramu pungai and ask the boy to treat the sapling as his sibling and give it water daily.
These days he carries a LCD projector that he purchased for Rs 37,000 from a PF loan to schools for his environmental awareness programmes, where he shares interesting facts of nature with the children.

Yoganathan says that he has planted saplings outside of school campuses as well and insists that we visit one such place, the railway quarters at Podanur in South Coimbatore. The trees that he has planted here have grown up to 15 to 20 feet.

Yoganathan joined the Tamil Nadu state transport corporation in 1999. In his 17 years of service as bus conductor he has been transferred 40 times, because of his frequent absence from work.
After he received Earth Matters’ Eco Warrior award from then Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari, in 2008, life has become better for him, with officials taking a more lenient view on him since. He has been supported by his wife Valarmathi and, daughters Monisha, 24, who works as a cashier in a bank, and Sathyapriya, 18, studying B Com second year.

There are people who are absolute tree lovers and every time a tree is chopped down it breaks them down. We need more such people for a better world. Under the name of development and urbanization, trees are axed down every day. Trees are important to reversing the effects of major environmental crises such as global warming, species loss, and drought.

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