Turning a sand dune into a green garden might seem like a difficult task, but a septuagenarian has single-handedly achieved this and managed to plant over 27,000 trees in a village near here, earning him the sobriquet of 'Tree Man'.
Ranaram Bishnoi of Ekalkhori village near Jodhpur climbs a high sand dune every alternate morning and waters the trees he has planted in 25 bigha land with a large earthen pitcher.
For this, he walks 3 km to reach the dune from his house, climb it, go down the other side to get the water from his friend's tubewell and mount it back, defying his age.
In this manner, he has planted about 27,000 indigenous trees like Neem, Rohida, Fig, Khejri, Kankeri, Babool and Bougainvillea.
"The plants are god-like for me and by serving them I feel accomplished and relieved," Ranaram says.
He has also developed a small crater on the dune to collect water using a big polythene sheet and keep it covered to avoid the water from being consumed by the cattle and getting evaporated.
"Sometimes, I also take the women of my house along and some time I take the girls of the village to help watering the plants spread on the large chunk of the dune and pay them Rs. 2 per plant from my pocket," says a beaming Ranaram, who has earned the sobriquet of 'Tree Man'.
Awarded by the administration and forest department, Ranaram has achieved the feat without any government assistance, but SDM Rakesh Sharma said, "If he approaches us for any help, we will definitely consider him."
He said "greening" a dune of this size without any resources was "great work" and Ranaram deserved appreciation for this.
The environmentalist says he was inspired about 50 years ago when he visited a community festival of Bishnois at Mukam in Bikaner as a young boy.
"There I heard the speakers emphasising on environment as the aim of life for a Bishnoi. That day transformed me and while returning, I brought some plants from Bikaner and planted them in the vicinity of my village," he said.
Ranaram has also developed a nursery in his house to prepare seeds and saplings of the plants and spray the seeds every rainy season on the dune.
Many of them get flown away in gales but even this has not discouraged him. "Those few which convert into a plants is a success for me," he says.