Anuganalu village in Hassan district of Karnataka sets a precedent in environment protection by growing a dense forest at rocky and barren land
Almost every village in the country has some Panchayat or gochar land, which normally remains unused or is encroached by powerful people. Two brothers, Dr Malali Gowda and Krishnamurthy at Anuganalu village, about 14 km from Hassan district on Belur Road, made the best use of such land making a deep impact in the lives of villagers. The water level, which used to be at more than 100 feet deep about 15 years ago here, is now just at 6 feet. Encouraged over the initiative, both the brothers have now set up a Biodiversity and Research Park, which is regularly visited by many people including the botanists and traditional doctors. Being a genetic scientist and researcher Dr Malali Gowda remains out of the village, hence Krishnamurthy looks after the entire project.
The devastating earthquake that hit Bhuj (Gujarat) on January 26, 2001, came with the saddest news for the villagers at Anuganalu under Hassan district of Karnataka. The first post graduate youth of the village then doing PhD, Malali Gowda, was reported to be killed in the quake. Deeply distressed villagers had even performed his post death rites, when they, after a few days, received the news that MG is alive. They called him back to the village as everybody wanted to see him. When he came to the village, he was extended a rousing reception.
Addressing the villagers then Malali said, “It is indeed second birth for me, as there was no hope for my survival. Being a genetic scientist and researcher I know the quakes or tsunamis are the curse of the nature, therefore nature should be protected at all costs. Will you all join me making this rocky land green?” His appeal deeply influenced the villagers and they came together to materialise the pledge. This is how the project began with the personal investment of Rs one lakh by Malali Gowda, which he had received as scholarship.
Since the village has huge rocky and barren land, they selected a nearby rocky plot measuring about 15 acres. Planting and caring saplings on that rocky land was a herculean task, as there was no water resource there. But the villagers did not lose hope. They set-up a plant nursery and planted the saplings on the sloppy land. For irrigation, they dig some tanks on upper areas of the plot to store rain water. During summers they irrigated them through buckets thus saving around 40 per cent of the saplings in the first year.
When the work started showing results, some Government agencies too came forward with help and encouragement. But instead of taking any help they persuaded the Agriculture Department to provide organic manure project to the villagers. Many such projects are still on in the village.
Today, a dense forest with about 700 species of trees, including sandalwood and innumerable natural habitation, is visible on this land. It is also home to various birds, which were never seen even in the surrounding villages. Arrangements have been made for natural water bodies, which takes care of the water needs of the plants and the animals. The forest is now maintained under Biodiversity Research and Conservation Trust (BCRT), whose members are local villagers. The Trust also organises some agriculture related activities to create awareness among the farmers. Some students, botanist and researchers also now come here to collect information about the nature. The BCRT also distributed about 80,000 free saplings to surrounding villages and planted saplings in 100 schools.
Both the brothers did not stop here. With the help of some interested villagers, they created two more wonders. First is the DNA Temple, which educates people about DNA. This temple has been set-up after the father of Dr Malali Gowda and Krishnamurthy. For those who know about DNA, it is a case study. It is a good initiative to popularise the DNA. Forget the genetic scientists the farmers too now have some knowledge of this purely scientific term.
Another wonder is a Medicinal Park developed at one and a half acre land of Shri Malligowda. It has more than 125 species of rare medicinal plants including Mangarbelli, Madhunashani, Rudraksh, Insulin, etc. Therefore, once in two months, traditional doctors (Vaidyas) visit the park and share their knowledge with each other. They hope that this exercise will ensure that the knowledge is passed to the next generation, thereby protecting traditional medicines. State’s traditional Vaidya’s council has also started extending help to the project. One more interesting feature of the experiment is that traditional doctors have started growing such medicinal plants into their respective gardens also.
The awareness for nature protection has generated to the extent that the villagers now celebrate their birthdays, wedding ceremonies and other auspicious occasions by planting saplings in the forest and also take responsibility to look after them. Till now about 300 such saplings have been planted. It is because of the attachment of the villagers that there is no fencing around the forest. The villagers themselves make sure that the cattle or other animals do not astray into it.
The initiative has received applause not only from the environment lovers of the State, country or the nearby villagers, but also from the former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam who in 2006 presented Karnataka State’s ‘Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Parisara Prasasti (Paryavaran Puraskar) to BCRT. The rise in water level of the village from 100 feet deep in 2000 to just 6 feet deep has now encouraged the villagers to turn tree plantation into a movement. That is why saplings have been planted on both sides of three km road up to cross of the village road leading to Hassan-Belur main road. Not only this, they have also pledged to make their village a model village in all respects. “This is the finest model for an educational tour by schools and colleges. One can see here how trees can be grown into the rocks and how the nature responds when positive steps are taken,” says Transport Department officer Shri SS Pasha, who has done a wonder in adult literacy through Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Hassan district.
Now there are efforts to turn the remaining village land also green. “Saplings have already been planted on another piece of equally rocky and sloppy land,” says Krishnamurthy. One more interesting point about this project is that it displays the change in mindset that the Apna Desh movement started by senior IAS of Karnataka Shri Bharatlal Meena has kicked off. Really, an example worth emulating all over the country to make the best use of the Government land in villages.