In God's Own Country, hopes for increasing the state's green cover spring from temple courtyards.
In its effort to tackle the impacts of climate change in Kerala, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led government has launched an ambitious project to improve the green cover of over 3,000 temples being managed by five devaswom boards under its control.
Besides, the project also envisages preserving the water resources by renovating abandoned temple ponds and protecting the sacred groves in the state.
The 'Devankanam Charuharitham' (beautiful green abodes of God) project will be implemented in 3,800 plus temples across the state that are managed by five devaswom boards.
State Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan inaugurated the project on June 5 on the occasion of World Environment Day by planting a sapling in the courtyard of the headquarters of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) in Thiruvananthapuram.
Travancore Devaswom Board President K Ananthagopan said that an order in this regard has been issued and circulated to all devaswom boards in the state.
"The devaswom boards in Kerala have several temples that have good land banks. So, our idea is to grow trees in these lands so that we can improve the green cover," Ananthagopan told PTI.
The temples will also plant various flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees in temple compounds so that they can also produce flowers and fruits for daily use in the temple, helping these temples to be self-reliant, he said.
The TDB, which manages several temples, from the districts of Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam, has also directed all its assistant commissioners to collect data regarding the temple ponds that are in dilapidated condition.
"Temple ponds are a main source of water in various areas. So, these ponds will be renovated and preserved with funding from the government," Ananthagopan said.
Devaswom boards are also protecting various sacred groves (places of worship with serpent deities kept in the open in a protected natural forest).
"We already have very big sacred groves that are preserved. Once the other temples also grow their own green cover, we can improve the green cover considerably," the devaswom board president said.
The idea is to make temples in the state symbols of environmental protection, and apart from the Travancore Devaswom Board, Kochi, Malabar, Guruvayur, and Koodalmanickam devaswom boards are also implementing this project in their temples.
As an extension, properties belonging to the devaswom boards will also be made part of the project.
The Kerala government already has a project called 'Kavum Kulavum' (sacred groves and ponds), where the government is providing a grant to private individuals for protecting sacred groves and ponds on their private properties.
"Temples are always environment-friendly, and they use only organic materials that are derived from nature for poojas and other rituals. So it is a natural extension to make these temples symbols of environmental protection and create awareness among the public," Ananthagopan said.