Two conservationists from Palakkad – a rice farmer who revived the heirloom Navara rice and an autorickshaw driver who plants trees daily – have won this year’s prestigious Anirudh Bhargava-INTACH Environmental Award.
Rice genome conservator Narayanan Unny from Chittur, Palakkad, won the first place in an all-India competition for restoring the financial sustainability of rice farming, and particularly of Navara rice, which is used in Ayurveda because of it medicinal properties.
The awards were given away at a function held at Government College, Chittur, on Monday. Addressing the function, Mr. Unny said he wound up a lucrative computer distribution business to concentrate on isolating a pure strain of the purple rice, growing it on his 12-acre farm without chemicals and less water, applying for a Geographical Indicator Certification, and developing a cultivation and marketing model for other farmers.
“There are numerous problems, and we are trying to overcome them one by one,” he told an audience of students and environmental enthusiasts.
The second prize was jointly shared by auto-driver Shyam Kumar from Thenkurissi, Palakkad, and Sarang Yadwadkar from Pune, who has been campaigning against encroachments in rivers. Mr. Shyam Kumar said he had planted 23,000 trees on roadsides over the years. He carries saplings in his vehicle and plants them for six months, then spends the warm months watering them or persuading people to care for them. He has 50 bird baths in his house that attract 39 types of birds and has helped several schools plant trees and set up bird baths.
K.J. Sohan, convenor of the Kerala chapter of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), gave away the awards. INTACH Palakkad chapter convenor Arun Narayanan said the group worked to promote conservation of culture, history and buildings. P. Pramod, principal scientist at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology, Coimbatore, delivered the keynote address.