When Haris Kattakandiyil returned to his hometown at Nadapuram in Kozhikode district after working in the Middle East for a few years, what welcomed him was acute water scarcity in his village, along with increasing air pollution. Places which were once self-sufficient with numerous water sources were being served drinking water in tanker lorries. This sight was a turning point in the life of the 30-year-old, who gave wing to his cherished dream and kickstarted a mission to plant one lakh trees.
For the past one year, Haris has been going to hospitals, schools and open spaces in his town in pursuit of his mission. He carries hundreds of tree saplings with him to each of these places to spread greenery. Till date, he has planted over one thousand saplings in Nadapuram and Purameri gram panchayats.
Speaking to TNM, Haris, who is now a farmer by profession, explains how a small secret mission of his fructified with the support of many kind hearts. “I started off by planting a few saplings that were available with me and collected from various places I know. But as people started to notice what I was doing through local media reports, many started to contact me saying they are ready to donate the saplings with them. I never wanted to get this attention from the media or people. I wanted to achieve my target of planting one lakh trees. But then this turned positive with many people, even nurseries and environmental enthusiasts, expressing their willingness to donate the saplings they have,” says Haris.
From saplings of fruit-bearing plants like Jamun, Mango and Cashew, to timber wood like Mahogany, Haris distributes saplings for free to those who are ready to plant them.
“Apart from one instance when I didn’t get a positive response, every institution I have approached for the cause has extended their full support. They are happy about me planting saplings in their compounds apart from distributing it to students. There are about 25 schools in Nadapuram panchayat, I have planted saplings in three-fourths of these schools,” he says.
Haris has now collaborated with Regional Transport Office in Vadakara to spread afforestation. New vehicles that are being registered in Vadakara RTO, from now on will be provided with saplings by Haris. “A single vehicle has its role in causing air pollution, so we have to also make sure that we take some corrective measures,” he says.
Haris wants to be remembered as someone who did good deeds for society. “People don’t really care what they are doing to the environment in a hurry to make personal gains. If at least one person finds inspiration from what I do and takes effort to make the environment greener, then that would be enough for me,” says Haris.
In between his mission, Haris also finds some time for farming to ensure that his family needs are met. He cultivates fish and crops on a small scale. This helps his family to be self-sufficient for food up to a point.
Though at times, Haris faces criticism from people around for spending his time and energy in doing something which is not going to get him any material gains, constant support of his wife Najiya keeps him going.
Haris doesn’t wish to be in the limelight but is determined to fulfil his mission. “Though I have not yet reached the halfway mark in my mission, I am sure it is possible to fulfil my dream of planting one lakh trees,” he signs off confidently.