With rapid urbanisation and deforestation leading to loss of natural habitat, a man from Telangana has been doing his bit to save the environment for the last several decades.
Seventy-year-old Daripalli Ramaiah, popularly known as ‘Chettla Ramaiah’, which means ‘tree’ in Telugu, is said to have planted more than one crore saplings in Khammam and other parts of the state, as part of a green campaign for nearly six decades.
He has been awarded the Padma Shri for his efforts.
Ramaiah is known to carry seeds in his pocket and plants on his cycle as he goes around replenishing nature.
He learnt all his planting lessons from his mother, as he fondly recalls her saving seeds for the next planting season.
Seeds are the secret of evolution, he believes.
“God has given life to it and it proves to the world its existence by giving birth to a plant when wedded to soil, during monsoon,” he earlier told Better India.
His mission started while riding his cycle. He used to hold the handle with one hand and sprinkle seeds on the sides of the pathways, with the other.
He had earlier collected several native seeds such as Bael (Bilva), Peepal (Bauhinia Racemosa), Kadamba (Nanclea Cadamba), Nidra Ganneru (Albezia Soman), Kanuga (Pongamia), Neem (Azadirechta Indica), Erra Chandanam (Red Sanders), and many more and started planting on both sides of the road of the canal banks from Khammam, Palleguda Bridge on a four-kilometre stretch.
He says he has lost count of the trees he has planted.
“I don’t exactly remember the number of trees I have planted over the years. I believe in action and not in just preaching,” he once told The Hindu.
Seeing trees all around him, gives him immense satisfaction and contentment, he says.
His wife Janaki has been a great source of support. She has nurtured the saplings planted by Ramaiah around their house at Reddypally.
During the course of planting trees, he has gained knowledge about the history of almost every tree in his area through extensive reading.
His mission doesn’t end there.
He has also collected all kinds of waste material including clutch plates and tin pieces, to paint slogans on the importance of trees. He displays these slogans in the form of a crown while going around the area.
`Vruksho Rakshati Rakshitah’ is his catchword which means if you save the trees, they will save you.
“One who smears sacred ash is a priest, one who wears Khaki is a policeman and one who adorns a green scarf is Ramaiah,” he told Better India.
Ramaiah has named his granddaughters Chandanapushpa, Haritha Lavanya, Kabandhapushpa and Vanasri reflecting his love for nature.
The eco warrior has received several state and national awards for his green campaign.
He has been conferred an honorary doctorate by the Academy of Universal Global Peace.
In 2012, the Andhra Pradesh Forest Academy (APFA) had presented him the “Green Warrior” award during the Earth Day celebrations.
During the second Telangana Formation Day celebrations, he was presented with a cash prize of Rs one lakh by the state government.
Last year though, Ramaiah underwent a heart surgery and faced a financial crisis as a result, but he is determined to soldier on.
“I made several representations to the people’s representatives and the district officials seeking financial aid. There is no response to my plea for aid. I am striving for promotion of greenery for several decades with a commitment. I will continue to plant saplings till my last breath even if I do not get more financial assistance from the government,” he told The Hans India.