Nenmeli Eco-village
Conservation & Restoration of Sacred Groves in South India
Establishment of Nakshatra-rasi thottam
Environmental Education in Ecologically Fragile Areas – Nilgiris & Andamans
Set-up of smokeless chulhas




One of our most successful projects has been the Nenmeli eco-village project, which has inspired us to initiate similar programmes in other villages.

Nenmeli is a village in the Kanchipuram district of Tamilnadu, about 70 km from Chennai. In 1995, the people of Nenmeli approached CPREEC seeking assistance for solving the acute water problem in their village. Our organization took up the challenge to reverse water scarcity and environmental degradation at low cost.
Nenmeli, originally a watershed, had turned into a barren wasteland due to extensive deforestation. There is a small hillock in the middle of agricultural lands overlooking two artificial tanks. During the rains, the soil got washed off into the two artificial reservoirs, which silted up. Soon there was no water in the village and the people migrated to Chennai in search of work.

CPREEC with community participation first contoured the hillock and bunded it with locally available rocks and stones. The site was fenced with trees and the pits were mulched to retain moisture. The two water tanks were desilted. The lands attached to the village temple, were converted into sacred groves. Another 5.5 acres of land, adjoining the temple land was also afforested. Local women were involved in the establishment of a herbal garden in these lands. They were also trained to plant and manage their own kitchen gardens, vermicompost their biodegradable waste and construct smokeless chulhas. CPREEC installed a community smokeless chulha in the village school. They were also taught to prepare simple herbal kits with the medicinal plants available.

CPREEC also took up the initiative of promoting conservation through environmental education and awareness creation. Books, pamphlets, and posters were developed and distributed to the local people. Informal meetings were organized to sensitize the community on environmental issues. CPREEC's video-on-wheels and cultural programmes supplemented the education programme to make the subject more interesting.

Today, Nenmeli appears green with trees and medicinal plants. The wells have eight feet of water in the hottest and driest summers. It serves as a model village for watershed management and biodiversity conservation.

Students visiting the model village at Nenmeli




India has always revered our environment since ancient times. The five sacred elements or pancha boothas - air, water, land, fire and space - were inviolable. Nature was revered in the form of sacred forests and trees, sacred gardens and mountains, sacred rivers and tanks and sacred animals. By regarding all creation as sacred, nature was protected.

Sacred groves represent an ancient Indian conservation tradition, protected by local people out of reverence and respect, fear and sentiment and consist of a shrine with a water reservoir, the entire grove surrounded by a forest or thicket of trees. The threat to these natural repositories threatens human existence.

CPREEC has been restoring degraded sacred groves in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu as part of the 'Awareness through Action' programme initiated in 1994. Sacred groves that are endangered or in near extinction condition and are in need of restoration are identified and selected by C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) for restoration. Appropriate species suitable to the area were selected and planted with the cooperation of the temple authorities and local villagers.

Awareness raising programmes were conducted for school students, teachers, villagers, priests and women on the importance of sacred grove conservation. Saplings were also distributed to school students to motivate them and their parents to raise and nurture trees.


The effort to conserve sacred groves is now catering to the understanding and beliefs of the common masses. The establishment of nakshatra vana, pavithra vana and navagraha vana in various parts of India from the Jharkand in the north to most of the southern states is a step in this direction. CPREEC has also taken initiatives in this regard. The nakshatra-rasi thottam at the Meenakshi temple lands at the Koodal Senkulam near the Madurai airport is one of the first of its kind by an educational centre.

The 27 species of plants corresponding to the twenty-seven stars of the Hindu zodiac calendar have been identified and public can plant a sapling of tree of their birth star and pay for its maintenance. This novel effort in encouraging community participation in preservation of plants as well as nurturing a religious element has found adaptation in many other temples, private institutions and even public parks.



CPREEC established its first field office at Ooty in 1991 with the aim of conserving the ecology of the Nilgiris. The office regularly conducts environmental education programmes in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve including exhibitions, nature camps, etc.

Anti-Plastic Campaign

An Anti-Plastic Campaign was conducted in the Nilgiri District. The campaign included distribution of pamphlets and eco friendly bags, in lieu of the plastic carry bags being brought by the tourists. The harmfulness of plastics bags was also highlighted.

Student volunteers who were involved held this campaign at the entry points of the districts like Burliar, Kunjapanai, Kakkanalla, Gudalur and other tourist places like Mudumalai, Botanical Garden, Lake, Sim's Park etc.

Thambatty Herbal Garden

The herbal garden was established by CPREEC with the support of Hill Area Development Programme (HADP) of Nilgiri District. It is fully maintained by CPREEC. The garden acts as a genepool of medicinal plants as well as a mini water-catchment area. Around 160 perennial medicinal herbs and 30 seasonal plants are being conserved.


The Andaman & Nicobar island ecosystem has been endowed with rich biodiversity and is threatened due to various anthropogenic activities and natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami. In 1994, CPREEC initiated environmental education in the region with the aim of protecting natural resources and promoting sustainable development.


It is a common practice among villagers to use firewood for cooking.  But they are unaware of the consequences and damage caused by indoor air pollution to their health and to the environment.  This traditional practice is hard to change and calls for an alternate solution.  Smokeless chulhas are effective and easy to handle and one could be installed in the village school.  The women can be trained to manufacture and market them. CPREEC has set-up smokeless chulhas in many villages in South India.