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Living in a forest of his own

By K. P. Pushparaj

PARAPPA (KASARAGOD DISTRICT), MARCH 25. P. Abdul Kareem has created a green wooded forest all by himself by converting a 32-acre laterite hillside which was once a barren hill.

All these were possible because Mr.Kareem, a nature-lover was determined to create such a green cover. For this 58-year-old man, it was hard labour, but grit and determination that triumphed that a recent Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) commercial advertisement featured his green hillside for its "India Inspired" campaign.

It was in 1979 that Mr. Kareem bought five acres of barren and rocky wasteland on a hillock in Puliyamkulam, spread over in Kodom-Belur and Kinanur-Karinthalam village panchayats, situated some 30 kilomters from Neeleswaram. Kareem started planting saplings of wild trees between the laterite stones that were in plenty in the hillock.

Bought from savings

A Gulf-returnee, Mr.Kareem utilised a good portion of his savings to buy yet another 27 acres of rocky slope which was closeby. A committed Kareem continued to nurse his plant with water ferried in from far and wide. Though none of the saplings survived in his first, second or third attempts, he persisted by planting more saplings and saw his efforts bearing fruit within a period of five years.

He adopted soil and water conservation measures by digging rainwater catch pits and also raised walls with rock pieces across the slopes so as to capture soil carried by run-off water.

Impact of humus

The most important revelation for Kareem was the impact of humus on the hard laterite rock. The fallen leaves form a thick layer on the rocky surface and get decomposed over the years into fine humus. This accelerated the disintegration of hard laterite into small gravel and slowly to fine soil.

And, as they grew to young adult trees, he sighted water in the well.

And, even as hare, fowl and beehives started colonising the new man-made forest, Kareem started planting more trees, mostly from the wild, and the Mother Nature did the rest for Mr.Kareem. Thanks to his 27-odd years of living in his 32 acres of forest, Kareem's success story spread and recognition started trickling in with environmentalists and the media beginning to take notice of his forest.

Ecological miracle

Today, the lush green 32-acre forest is globally acknowledged as an ecological miracle. Now there are plenty of wild tress, viz `Venga', `Kallarayal', `Kattupunna', `Maruthu', `Karimaruthu', `Irul and Irumullu' in Kareem's Forest Park" (KFP). Thanks to the numerous visitors he has from across the globe, the visitors book in his house is nearly full. "From my nearly three-decade acquaintance with nature, what I understand is that a religious connection between man and forest can make all the difference", a contented Kareem told The Hindu .

He kept water in small pots randomly to attract birds that fly miles and miles in search of water. In fact, the droppings of birds introduced several new species in Kareem's forest.

Water for all

Now Mr. Kareem also supplies drinking water to the 100-odd families from the two wells and four ponds in his forest.

Appreciated and adopted as "Puliyamkulam model" by agricultural research organisations, including the Indian Council of Agricultural Research Kareem's man-made forest is also a destination of ecotourism.

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