"I have wanted to plant trees along this stretch for the past two years. This is the gateway to Mangalore as it is the way to and from the airport." says Jeeth Roche

What was once a dump yard and a convenient toilet for truckers, may soon be a tree-lined avenue welcoming visitors to Mangalore.

Tax consultant-cum-cocktail specialist Jeeth Roche (36) is a man on a mission. Although he is only midway in his ten-day tree-planting project, the National Highway between Nanthoor and Karnataka Polytechnic (KPT) already wears a different look.

Debris, which had once piled high along the 1.5 km stretch of the road, has gradually given way to saplings planted in two rows on both sides of the highway.

While the symmetry of it is already striking, the landscape of the road is sure to change when around 600 saplings planted there blossom into 20-foot tall trees with a wide canopy.

The transformation was Mr. Roche’s vision of a greener Mangalore.

“I have wanted to plant trees along this stretch for the past two years. This is the gateway to Mangalore as it is the way to and from the airport.

“And yet, the road has looked barren ever since it was widened,” he said.

He approached Mangalore City Corporation for beautification of the stretch, but was referred to National Highway Authority of India, which asked him to go back to the civic body.

“It seemed like the land belonged to no one. However, after repeated pleading, NHAI gave us permission to go ahead, but with a condition: we had to plant four metres from the road,” said Mr. Roche.

With the first hurdle cleared, he confronted the second hurdle – clearing debris and removal of human refuse as the area had been used by truckers to relieve themselves.

“We needed an earth mover to clear the debris. People had been dumping here for a long time.

Even concrete left over after concretizing the roads in the city was dumped here, forming huge concrete boulders.

While cleaning, we even found carcasses of cats close to Kadri Park,” said Mr. Roche.

Eventually, Sanath Shetty, a builder and Cidric, a businessman, lent labour and money to run bulldozers to clear the debris.

Saplings donated

Range Forest Officer Clifford Lobo donated the saplings from the Forest Department nursery in B.C. Road.

In his nearly eight years of planting trees, Mr. Roche claims to have planted more than 15,000 saplings across the city.

Whether it is the 640 plants in Aloysius College in Mudipu, 2,400 plants at Nandigudda cemetery, lining National Highway 48 between Padil and B.C. Road, Mr. Roche has played a crucial role in the afforestation drive.

“I will continue doing this as long as I can. Mangalore is losing its green cover and it is disheartening to see trees disappear,” he said.