Pedalling to a green earth

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No other religious scripture than the Judeo-Christian Bible has the shortest and the most beautiful account of creation. Despite its brevity, it reveals the details of creative activity of God as well as the beauty of creation. Man, the climax of creation, was entrusted with the nature to look after and take care of it.

While many Christians may not bother to care for the nature, Fr Prasant Payyappilly Palakkappilly, a religious priest from Congregation of Mary Immaculate (CMI) is a rare breed who is in love with nature and destined to protect it.

Presently serving as the Principal of Sacred Heart College, Thevara he has been instrumental in creating awareness among his students about traditional farming as well as motivating them to involve in the social movements of farming. He also is a social activist and environmentalist.

After his Ph. D in Social Work from Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in 2007 Fr. Prasant was appointed as the head of the same School till year 2010. During his tenure in Rajagiri, he turned the 22 acres of land into lush greenery under a project he named as Environmental Lesson.

He also started several environmental initiatives like setting up of micro forests and other forestation efforts, water conservation projects and introduction of waste management systems. As a result, in 2009, Rajagiri College won the Haritha Award by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board for the best environmental initiatives in the state.

student SH Pokkali
Students from Sacred Heart College, Thevara plants Pokkali saplings at Ezhupunna, Alappuzha

In 2010, Fr. Palakkappilly was appointed as the Principal of Sacred Heart College, Thevara where he initiated community cultivation, a new experimental practice. He inspired the students of Bottony and Zoology department to cultivate paddy in a small piece of land, which later was developed into organic farming of vegetables in four acres of land.

“We have developed a vegetable garden on the terrace of the college. We distribute seeds among our students and motivate them to develop terrace gardens at their homes too”, says Fr Prasant.

In another project opened by him, the students joined hands with their teachers to plant rice saplings on a 165-acre Pokkali farm called Puthenkarippadam at Ezhupunna panchayat in Alappuzha district. The mission was envisaged at promoting Pokkali farming in a nation that has been witnessing severe financial crisis believed to be due to the drop in crop production.

They also tried to convey the message that the State needs to rejuvenate its dwindling green cover at a time when the wetlands and paddy fields were fast disappearing in various districts.

The students who are cooperating happily with the efforts of their teacher are getting new experiences. “Many of us have not seen the practice of farming. Now with this effort, we can directly know how rice is cultivated,” a sFr Prasant on cyletudent said.

Fr. Prasanth Palakkappilly is the advisor of Pokkali Samrakshina Samara Samithi apart from associating with many human rights, child rights and environmental organisations in Kerala.

Fr Prasant is not only an advocate of farming but also a model for various sorts of healthy life style. He goes around on his bicycle wherever he can. He opines that cycle is affordable to anyone, it provides you better health, and reduces pollution and traffic. In busy cities such as Kochi people should use more of cycles. He suggests that there shall be an exclusive track for cyclists. Seeing their principal riding the cycle to his office, many of his students have started cycling to their future.

Fr Prasant finds a perfect relation between the religious life he lives and the varied activities he is engaged with such as education and advocating traditional farming. Living in conformity with the nature as well as preserving the purity of the earth is part of the spirituality he lives. Every human being is responsible to preserve life, not only of humans but also of the entire creation as God has entrusted it to humans. Every religion has said this, but human beings become greedy to exploit every bit of nature.

Fr Prasant advices a ‘moderate life’, which consists in consuming only what is required for everyone as a remedy for exploitation of the environment. Religious people today have developed a spirituality that is more conforming to the rituals or charitable activities. But he reminds that we shall not forget to care for earth so that we can hand it over to the posterity in its pristine purity. This he considers as a significant dimension of true spirituality.

Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald, Metro Manorama

Jose Vallikatt has his specialisation in the interdisciplinary area of media, religion and culture. He writes on various issues related the Church and media.

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