My Story: “My Love For Wildlife Photography Led Me To Turn A Wasteland Into Lush Green Forest, In Just 3 Yrs”

Image Credits: Shivshankar Banagar

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“I was born and brought up in Kamalapur, Bellary district – Karnataka.  After completing my Diploma in mechanical engineering life has taken me through many paths leading to my current position as a conservator, bird watcher, guide, travel organizer and also allowing me to play my part in the rescue and rehabilitation of various species but mainly snakes.

My inspiration to plant a forest

When I started working with the forest department as a volunteer, I got attracted to tree planting works & the benefits derived from it.

During the same time, I was elected as the President of Kamalapur town Panchayat. I observed that in so many functions and events, the opening ceremony started with tree planting and watering of the trees in well-prepared surroundings. However the very next day on visiting the same places, I would notice that the trees have been uprooted, missing or the trees have died a few days later due to lack of watering and care.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

I was highly concerned about the impact this made, especially in the minds of children when trees planted in their school would vanish the next day.

This is what made me decide that I had to do afforestation by myself to inspire a change.

I was lucky when Mr Ranga Reddy, the then secretary of the Tungabhadra Board asked me to be a birdwatching guide for him and his family. He was impressed by my wildlife photography and took some of my photos for his office and for exhibition at the Fish Aquarium in his park.  Encouraged by his response towards nature and wildlife, I requested him to give me permission to plant and protect a wide variety of native trees in the land adjacent to mine with the assurance and undertaking that I would have no claim over the land or the trees.

When I received the oral permission from him, my work began. I started my work in a wasteland filled with all kinds of debris like boulders, rubbles etc. These were discarded during the construction of the Tungabhadra high-level canal.

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My hurdles and my success

The first challenge was to clear all the debris from the area and selecting the right place and the right tree to plant. This was an impossible task for just one person.  I had to hire some labourers to help me with clearing the debris and planting the trees.

I took the risk of planting the saplings very close to each other as I was not sure of the survival rate in such conditions. I estimated approximately 2 out of 20-25 saplings would survive and grow in that land. I still had to take that chance.

The next challenge was to ensure a good water supply for these saplings. Here in Bellary district, there are just two seasons, summer and extreme summer. The region also falls in the rain shadow area and has an average rainfall of only about 450-500mm. I also faced the problem of safeguarding the young saplings from the nomadic shepherd communities and their herd who used to pass through my land each year and trample the saplings.

For this, I had to put up a local fence first and guarded the area from sunrise to sunset. I had to hire a few labourers to help in watering them from the canal. My friend K. Manjunath then stepped forward to help by supplying water from his borewell.  We laid some pipes and sprinklers and the resulting yield was a success with 90% of the tress growing up to be very healthy.

My visions, dreams and way ahead

To start with it was the very worst barren land. When I started the plantation, I had prayed to God to at least make 4-5% of the trees healthy. I also dreamed to see flycatchers and other birds visiting my land one day.

Now, I am happy to say there are nearly 75 species of birds that are regular visitors to my tiny forest. I’ve also introduced a small water body in this place and added some fishes in this water body.  Now water birds, turtles, water snakes etc. are also regular visitors to this small pond. The best surprise was the visit by an Indian Pitta (a migratory bird that is usually seen only in cooler areas) that decided to stop in my farm in November last year for 11 days during the migration. The flycatchers have become regular visitors to my land now.

Till date, I have never used any chemical fertilisers or pesticides in my tiny forest and it is now becoming a butterfly garden also. Beehives have also started forming here.

Now my next initiative is to try and convince other commercial landowners next to mine to allow me to plant trees in their land too, again with no ownership claim over their land or the trees.

I am also in the process of setting up a small stay and interpretation centre in my land where people can come and stay, learn and explore nature along with understanding the impact a small forest like this can also have overall.

Currently, I am investing more than 50% of my income towards the further improvement of this land and forest. That is the reason that over a short span of 3 years I’ve been able to achieve this kind of a change.  I wish to further make more impact in the future and I am hoping this will encourage others also to do the same.

The planet belongs to all of us and it should be the moral responsibility of each and every one of us to do our bit protect it, particularly now to deal with climate change and global warming.

Apart from work

I am lucky to say that my passions, interests and hobbies are my work too. I am an avid birdwatcher, photographer and a guide as well as a travel organizer. This also helps me to travel to a lot of places and explore nature and introduce them to others.

I am well known as a snake rescuer and this helps me to introduce the students to various species of snakes before releasing the snakes in the wild.  This has inspired many young students to come and work with me as interns after their school and college and I’ve also nominated a few of them to go ahead and pursue the naturalist training program.

My photographs have been exhibited in a lot of places and I’ve won a few awards for my photography as well. These images have also been published in a number of newspapers as well.

I had served as SDMC president in Sri Thoppala Channappa Government Model Higher Primary school where I strived towards the overall development of the school and staff motivation to encourage better education for the students.

I’ve also organised health campaigns, awareness programs for pulse polio, blood donation camps etc. I’ve also been actively involved in educating students in various schools and colleges about our environment, wildlife, birds and snakes through slide shows and presentations. This has been very well received by the schools and the students and I am being invited as guest speaker very often to impart this knowledge to the young minds.

With my experience in afforestation, voluntary work with the forest department, rescue and release of birds and animals and as a keen birdwatcher, I try to encourage as many people as possible to experience nature in the most beautiful way.

I also work as a tourist guide and travel organizer in Hampi and introduce my guests to both the nature aspect and the ruins of Hampi.”

– Pompayya Malemath, Photographer

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote Is Distributing 40,000+ Meals Per Day In Mumbai During Covid-19 Lockdown

Image Credits: Shivshankar Banagar

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Every global crisis affects every country in a different way depending on their socio-economic background. The COVID 19 pandemic hit India straight in its gut. After the lockdown daily wage workers and people who are underprivileged have been rendered out of their jobs. This has ultimately pushed them to an acute financial crisis so much so that even being able to afford two meals a day has become impossible. While we all wait for normalcy to bring us back our sanity, the financially disadvantaged people on the streets are fighting both the pandemic and hunger.

In a scenario like so, a number of social groups have come forward to help in whatever way they can. One of the worst hit cities is Mumbai, where 5 lakh migrant workers, the homeless and underprivileged residents of slums and chawls, waiting endlessly for normalcy to return., an initiative by is cooking food and delivering them to those in dire need, every single day.

“” that was launched in the city of Mumbai on March 29th, is one of its kind people-driven movements that has been running hall and hearty by the people coming from all across. It is that classic example of solidarity where people from all backgrounds, cultural and social has come together to ensure that every mouth is fed.

Brains behind KhaanaChahiye
Top : Pathik Muni, Ruben Mascarenhas. Below: Munaf Kapadia, Shishir Joshi

How does work

What’s different you ask? has built a capacity of preparing over a whopping 50000+ meals on a daily basis by activating the closed kitchens on several Mumbai routes. Pathik Muni, who has been particularly invested in the mission says, “ We crowdsource demand on hunger pockets and then map it to supply-side by activating closed kitchens. Our partner NGO “Project Mumbai” with reach to the relevant stake holders in Government departments helps us facilitate permissions to activate these closed Kitchens with a turn around of 24 hours. Parallelly we raise funds to map the demand.”

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Areas of food distribution in Mumbai

The food that is prepared is not just hygienic but also fits the calorie count that is sufficient for a person to get him through the day. Every meal consists of daal-rice, aloo-sabzi, chole rotis, veg pulav etc. has a volunteer-driven collective drive in various areas of Mumbai where people in large numbers have come forward to contribute in the many ways possible. So far the initiative has covered the Bandra to Dahisar route on Western Express Highway, Sion to CST and underprivileged pockets between Mankurd to Kurla on Eastern Express Highway, Juhu to Dahisar on Linking road, a cluster of 1100 labor camps near Mumbai Central and a part of Dharavi Slums.

If you want to volunteer in Mumbai kindly reach out to [email protected]

Food distribution areas  in Mumbai by

  1. To beggars & homeless
    • below the flyovers between Bandra to Dahisar on Western Express Highway,
    • between Juhu to Dahisar on Link road
    • below the flyovers between Ghatkopar to CST
    • under privileged pockets between Mankurd to Kurla.on Eastern Express Highway,
  2. To labour camps
    • a cluster of 1100 labour camp near Mumbai Central
    • a cluster of 3000 labour camp near Govandi
    • a cluster of 2000 labour camp near Mahul
    • a cluster of 750 labour camp in Colaba
  3. Parts of Dharavi Slums towards Cotton Green.
  4. Over 5000 meals in labour camps at various location identified and provided by the Assistant Commissioner,
  5. Serving food to over 5000 meals in Worli and Bandra on request of the local MLA and Corporator.

Immense demand of food in next 10 days

The intent of the movement is to continue the drive of feeding the needy in these difficult times at least until the lockdown is lifted by the government. However, as the days are proceeding, initiative has identified more and more hunger pockets as a result of which the demand for food is just rising since the time it started. To give a perspective of the recently emerged roadblock, Pathik says, “Nine days back, we started with 1200 meals and we are already catering a demand of 40,000+ as of today. We have corporate donors for most of our requirement, but as the demand for food is rising, we are now looking to feed 5000 people in next 10 days, which turns out to be 1,00,000 meals. Therefore we need to now raise a sum of Rs 25,00,000/- which is huge and we really need the support of more people.”

To raise the funds, initiative has come together with Efforts For Good and The Logical Indian to share this concern with our community members because as a citizen-driven movement, the initiative needs more and more people to come forward and a set a sum aside to keep the initiative going in its full glory so that there are no impediments coming in the way of feeding every mouth in these difficult times. Additionally, one can also contribute by sharing the word with friends and families. COVID 19 is difficult for all, the least we can do is to contribute so that the struggle to cope up with the pandemic does not add up to the struggle to cope up with hunger as well.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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