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This Tamil Nadu IFS officer saves environment by day, and draws what she protects by night

The 2013-batch officer — an ex-techie who’s working on tech-based initiatives to help the forest department — has just self-published a calendar with her own art.

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New Delhi: Sudha Ramen, a 2013-batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, works at Tamil Nadu’s State Planning Commission by day and turns to art by night. 

The award-winning forest officer self-published a calendar with her own art this month. She calls her style a fusion of mandala and zentangle art, and says it’s been an interest since childhood.


“At times balancing work and family responsibilities becomes stressful. I make it a point to do some artwork regularly. It makes me feel relaxed and it feels really good once you’ve finished,” she told ThePrint, adding, “I don’t mind working till 2 am or even till 3 am on some days.”

Much of the inspiration for her work comes from the subjects she deals with on a daily basis: Forests, wildlife and birds.

“During my college days, I would draw flowers, vases, people. But during my training as a forest officer, I was exposed to wildlife and started sketching it,” she said.

After taking almost a year off for maternity leave, Ramen started working at the State Planning Commission in December. She holds the post of deputy conservator of forests (Geographic Information System). Her previous tenure at the Vandalur Zoo in Chennai saw the revival of a lake scorched by drought and lack of rainfall. 

Now, she’s working on technology-driven initiatives to help the state forest department streamline its work. The state government is all set to launch ‘Digital Forests,’ a scheme that seeks to create an inventory of forest resources. 

“I can’t reveal what the project I’m working on is, but it’s a tool that will integrate all the department’s forest-based activities with IT technology,” said Ramen. 

Also read: From 1,260 to 150 — why power transmission lines are ‘biggest threat’ to Great Indian Bustard

Tech and the environment

Ramen grew up in Neyveli, an industrial town in Cuddalore, and studied biomedical engineering at Avinashilingam University in Coimbatore. Before joining the forest service, Ramen worked at Wipro for three years, and her skills in technology have come in handy for her new career, too.

In 2015, she developed an application called Plantation Made Easy, which helped users select the right tree species to plant more easily. In 2018, it was relaunched as Treepedia, under the Tamil Nadu Innovative Initiatives Scheme (TANII).

Treepedia earned Ramen the Dr Kalam Innovation in Governance Award in 2019. As of last year, the app had 50,000 users.

“I’m a techie, and given my experience in building apps, I think the expectation from my seniors is that I apply that knowledge to help improve the efficiency of the department and bring governance to the system,” Ramen said. 

But Ramen’s experience with restoration is in equal part hands-on. In 2018, after an 18-acre lake at the Vandalur Zoo dried up because of water scarcity, Ramen led her department in restoring the lake to its original condition, which took more than a year. 

“We devised a clinical methodology, giving priority to what had to be done first. We did lots of work on siltation, planting a few native species, keeping track of birds, clearing up the drainage channels and strengthening the bunds,” she said. “When the work was about to finish, that’s when the monsoon started, and that really helped us to see the good results.”

In 2020, she won the Central Zoo Authority’s Prani Mitra Award for her work towards the management and welfare of captive animals. 

“Forests are a second priority because human needs always come first. But because of awareness, I think the scenario is slowly changing. I hope it changes for good, not just for the forests, but for every one of us,” she said. “We can always look to the forests for all the requirements we have.”

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: From January to June, wildlife board gave permits that can be ‘disastrous’ for protected areas


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