Shyam Kumar, an auto driver, spends almost all of his free time reading books. Around 16 years ago, he chanced upon a 2,000-year-old book called Vrikshayurvedam. Apart from learning various interesting facts about trees and forests from this book, he also read how “a single tree can make a difference to 10 children at a time.”

People were just beginning to talk about deforestation, global warming and environment destruction at the time.

But everything suddenly began to make sense to Shyam and he decided he needed to do his best to save the environment in whatever way he could.

Shyam lives in a village called Thenkurrisi in the Palakkad district of Kerala. He started to do some research to learn more about the trees that grow well in this area and what he should plant to help the animals and birds commonly found in the neighbourhood. He started by planting trees around his house – some large shade trees and some fruit trees that attract many birds, squirrels and bats.

For many years, Shyam carried out these activities all by himself. But soon after his marriage, his wife too joined him in his efforts and now his children also help him care for the environment.

As soon as a young tree grows to a particular height with a decent girth, Shyam ties a plastic bottle with small holes in it to the plant. The water dripping from the bottle keeps the soil around the tree moist.

On seeing Shyam’s work to keep the environment healthy, others in the village have also joined him. They help him plant saplings and today, within a radius of 15 kms around the village, there are some 23,000 trees.

Around eight years ago, Shyam bought an auto and became an auto driver. He has painted ‘Save Water- Save Trees’ on the the back of his vehicle in both English and Malayalam. He usually carries cans of water in the auto to replenish the water bottles tied to trees on the routes he takes.