Since 1986, P Abdul Kareem lives inside a 32-acre forest, which is host to hundreds of bee-hives, snake pits and nests. Point out any wild tree to him and he comes out with its local and botanical name instantly. Of course, it’s not something one needs to be surprised about. For, Kareem is not just the owner of the forest but also its creator.
Kerala's Forest Research Institute sends scientists to study the trees planted by him and the state’s textbook committee has introduced a chapter on this 'man-made forest' in the sixth standard textbook.
Green Paradise: The forest is a dream come true for Abdul Kareem
Agricultural scientist, M S Swaminathan, who once stopped by, has been a frequent visitor ever since. And Kareem was one of the 20 persons honoured in 2009 by Limca Book of Records as "People of the Year".
In 2005, Indian Oil Corporation released a full-page newspaper ad in its 'India Inspired' series, extolling Kareem's efforts, and followed it up by gifting him a fuel station to sustain his conservation efforts. However, behind Kareem’s success lies a strong will and years of hard work, propelled by a dream.
When Kareem first set his eyes on the lateritic hillside during his weekend getaways at his wife’s house in Puliyankulam, the entire stretch was barren. In 1977, he bought five acres of land with an almost non-functional well for Rs 3,750.
Next year, he planted mature saplings of wild trees, but all of them withered soon. The second attempt too was unsuccessful. However, in the third attempt, several saplings survived and started growing.
In those days, Kareem used to fetch water in cans on his motorbike from a source a kilometre away - several times a day. He cared for passing birds too. He put small water-filled pots around the land to attract them. They brought in more diversity to his land, discharging varied seeds through droppings.
He planted 800 species of forest trees and 300 medicinal plants. He has never weeded his land, never cut a tree, never swept or set on fire the leaves ever since. “The most important revelation for me was the impact of humus on the hard rock.
The fallen leaves form a thick layer on the rocky surface and get decomposed over the years. This accelerated the disintegration of laterite into small gravel and slowly to fine soil which in turn helps seeds spread by the insects and birds to grow roots and germinate,” he says.
He kept away all fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. He dug rainwater catch pits and raised walls with boulders across the slopes in order to capture soil carried by run-off water.
Soon, the ground water rose to a comfortable level. He stepped up his efforts. Weeds grew amidst the rare herbs and medicinal plants – many not chosen by Kareem. In 1982, he bought another 27 acres of rocky land and today, “you dig five metres and you'll get water here,” says Kareem.
With hare, fowl and other small game appearing in the forests and sack-sized beehives emerging, Kareem built his house inside the forest in 1986. From a tank in the forest, he can now pump 100,000 litres at one go and the level will bounce back in a few minutes.
Today, Kareem supplies drinking water to the 100-odd families from the two wells and four ponds in his forest, situated in Puliyankulam.
You need vision, courage, and confidence to create a school, where a student is given 10 bonus marks just for asking a tough question to the teacher, which they cannot answer. Partho Burman profiles the visionary educationist, Virendra Rawat
Fascinated by the rare Greater ‘Adjutant’ Stork in the fields on her way to school in Assam, Purnima Devi Barman grew up to learn that it has become rarer and launched a campaign to protect the species. Kavita Kanan Chandra tells the story
Led by a woman, Zamin Devarkulam in Tamil Nadu is a model village for India. It has no fan club, party flag or liquor shop and many of its youth work abroad, says P C Vinoj Kumar, who was amazed by the security that CCTV cameras provide
Anand in Gujarat made its farmers happy through a White Revolution. Now a doctor there is making childless couples happy. P C Vinoj Kumar profiles Nayana Patel, whose fertility clinic, Akanksha, saw its 1000th child birth through surrogacy
She has worked with women in distress in Mumbai and victims of Bhopal gas tragedy. Now, her New Light is a project that has pulled children of Kolkata’s red light areas out of darkness. G Singh met Urmi Basu, a social worker extraordinaire
A family car, a pickup truck, a mini-generator and more - all rolled into one for a genre called Personal Utility Vehicle. Partho Burman checks out the one of a kind vehicle, Multix MX, that’s been launched to meet the needs of entrepreneurs
Forced to work in a studio at the age of nine, Prakash Tilokani picked the nuances of the art to emerge as a leading wedding photographer having top business families and Bollywood celebs as clients. Kavita Kanan Chandra chronicles his life
Executing water conservation projects in over 4,200 locations is no joke. But Ayyappa Masagi has done that and more to save water, says Ruchita S, who drove 119 km to find out why the much honoured man is called a ‘Doctor of Dry Borewells’
The story of Raj Kumar Gupta reads more like a fairytale. From a mill worker to a millionaire, he has scaled great heights, starting with an apartment building in Hooghly district at a time when no one ever sold ownership flats, says G Singh
Claiming that there is a link between increasing incidence of rapes and other acts of sexual perversion to pornography, Kamlesh Vaswani, a lawyer from Indore, is waging a battle to get a ban on porn websites. Partho Burman spoke to the man