How green is the valley carved out by eco-warrior Kallur Balan from barren lands

Apart from caring about animals and nature, Balan also reaches out to the quench the thirst of the needy during the sweltering summer. Photo: Vibi Job / Manorama

For Kallur Balan, every day is the World Environment Day. Or so it seems.
Balan is now celebrating the silver jubilee of his existence as an ardent lover of nature – years he has spent planting, nourishing, protecting, conserving water, passing on the priceless wealth of experience to kids and all and sundry indulgences of the wonder that is nature.
Just that he doesn’t stop after planting a sapling – his main vocation. He then moves heaven and earth to nurture it, see it grow and let the world relish its innumerable benefits and the ethereal charm kit bestows on humankind.

That also means he is a crusader against all those who would trample upon plant life. Now, offering food to wild animals is an addition in his lexicon proclaiming the love of nature.
Sun and green leaves are his deities. His conversations are centred around trees, forests, rivulets. And their vitality to the ebb and flow of nature. Nothing more. Nothing less.

That is why Balan, 75, is a vibrant fountainhead of vitality at this age as he leads a hermit’s life in his abode at Palakkad-Ottapalam route’s Kallurmucheril. Here, they call him Kallur Balan.
The valley of barren hillock of Chudiyanpara is now a forest, it is only because Balan had routed his passion towards it.

That is no mean feat as the forest we are talking about is a vast expanse of land stretching to nearly 100 acres. That Balan had taken effort to create small springs in the rocky terrain to attract birds and flies is not a different story but a testimony to the gigantic efforts to create an ecosystem for nature conservation.

Now, Balan has taken upon himself the Herculean task of a million Palmyra palm trees. In his mammoth effort, Balan gets the unsolicited but welcome company of conservation activists, students and the Forest Department. The all-green attire of Balan who steps out from his home at dawn was not initially noticed by anyone. It has now morphed into a testament for his love of nature.

When Balan set out to carve a green swath from the barren hillock of Chudiyanpara, the Iyermala had human inhabitants but Chudiyan, which was part of it had none. The danger posed by wild animals has vanished after a forest was carved out of it, says he. But that was not before locals raised a banner of protest arguing that wild animals were being attracted by Balan’s conservation efforts.

Balan says he is engaged in efforts to tackle the menace of wild boars and monkeys by offering it plants as well as water to quench thirst. That has had an impact, says he. He collects plants and other ‘essentials” for these wild animals including zapota, water lemon, mangoes, bananas and grapes from fruit and vegetable markets for this purpose.
This ritual, twice a day, attracts hordes of monkeys as Balan whistles in a unique way to attract them. That is a unique communication concept developed by Balan.

Making of a ‘Sugathavanam’
Balan resides near the Tattu Kada in the forest carved out by himself. At dawn, he sets out to the hills nearby in a jeep in his all-green attire. The jeep was presented to him by Good Samaritans from Malappuram who came to know about his tireless efforts. The Iram industrial group also pitched in with a pick-up van to aid his conservation efforts.

He collects Palmyra palm fruits and then plants saplings. Balan is now also engaged in another pet pursuit – making Sugathavanams, named after noted poet and environmental activist Sugathakumari, in educational institutions.

His initial efforts at planting saplings were near his home. That gradually spread to nearby places. He then switched over to a two-wheeler. After the state honoured him with the Vanamitra, Or Lover of forest, award, the world began to recognise him.
Balan’s efforts were also behind the award conferred to the district by the Union Ministry of Environment.

Quenching thirst
And if you thought, Balan cared about animals and nature conservation alone, you are wrong. Balan also reaches out to the quench the thirst of the needy during the sweltering summer. Sambharam is the magic potion he offers.

All these efforts also meant that Balan was caught in the quagmire of debt. During those days when people barely got out of their homes, Balan had to make extra effort to continue his activities. He finally had to sell half an acre to pay off the debts.

Balan lists out his expenses a major chunk of it also is to buy diesel. At least Rs 1,000 is needed to fill the tanks on a daily basis. Individual and social organisations do lend a helping hand considering the noble cause. He has earmarked an acre of land near his home. That would be given to whoever among his children who are inclined to takes up the cause after his lifetime, says he.

Balan, who had formal education only till class X, initially began as a helper to his father, a toddy tapper. But after being influenced by the ideals of social reformer Sree Narayana Guru, he quit the vocation.
And, among his first green initiatives was planting trees as part of a temple renovation project near his home.

He doesn’t hesitate to put a figure to the number of trees he has planted and also nurtured – 21 lakh, or more than 2 million. That insistence on the number comes from the fact that Balan believes his destiny is to plant a crore trees, watch them grow, and then set sail for his final journey. A priceless journey that has been.

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