IMPACT JORNALISM DAY: ENVIRONMENT

The man who planted 20,000 trees

Mr Kartik Paramanik all set to plant more saplings. The trees he planted include banyan, shimul, neem and a variety of fruit trees.
Mr Kartik Paramanik all set to plant more saplings. The trees he planted include banyan, shimul, neem and a variety of fruit trees.PHOTO: MONIRUL ALAM

75-year-old began at age 10, turns bare land in Bangladesh village green

This story was first published on June 20, 2015

WHEN he was a young boy, Mr Kartik Paramanik's father would tell him stories.

"What's the use of going on a pilgrimage? Just going to a sacred place won't make you clean and pure. If you just plant a tree, that will bring you far more blessings than any pilgrimage," his father would say.

His father's words left a deep impression on him.

When he was just 10 years old, he planted his first tree at the intersection of three roads. Mr Kartik, who is now 75 years old, is still tirelessly planting trees.

He lives in the village of Tarapur Thutapara, right on the border with India, about 40km from the district town of Chapainawabganj.

There was a time when blisters would break out on people's feet as they walked in the burning heat of this treeless area. They would unwrap the gamchas from their heads and use the cloth to protect their feet from the scorching earth. That was where Mr Kartik started his tree-planting mission. The bare, arid stretch of land gradually began to fill with trees.

As he grew up, his enthusiasm for planting trees grew.

Mr Kartik, who used to work as a barber, would set aside a small amount from whatever little he earned. With the savings, he would buy seedlings and plant them in different places.

Some thought he was a madcap, but he turned a deaf ear to the snide remarks and gradually filled the surrounding villages with trees.

The bare land turned green - with some 20,000 trees he has since planted in the area.

The trees he planted - banyan, shimul, neem and a variety of fruit trees - can be found by the roads, in marketplaces, on school grounds, and along the border camps.

These trees have been a blessing to his village. Needy parents could sell the trees in front of their homes to pay for their daughters' weddings. The weekly market spreads out under the shade of the leafy trees.

But Mr Kartik, who became famous after the media reported on his efforts, has not taken a single cent for himself.

In 2013, the story of his endeavours, A Man Who Loves Trees, was included in the eighth-grade English textbook.

Shopkeeper Serajul Islam is among those who have benefited from the tree-planting efforts. His shop sits under the expansive shade of a banyan tree Mr Kartik planted 40 years ago by the roadside in Sahapara. He said: "We are deeply indebted to Kartik."

ANWAR HOSSAIN/PROTHOM ALO (BANGLADESH)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'The man who planted 20,000 trees'. Print Edition | Subscribe