JAJPUR: At 6 am every day, Khirod Jena sets out on his two-wheeler in search of vacant patches of land, carrying a bag of saplings. On finding a suitable stretch, he plants a sapling and builds a bamboo fence around it to secure it from cattle. This has been a routine for him for the last 16 years and he is not tired yet.
A resident of Kalashree village under Barachana block, 54-year-old Jena is a former army man who is on a mission of greening Jajpur. Since he retired in 2005, Jena has planted 20,000 fruit-bearing trees including mango, guava, jamun and jackfruit on public spaces and roadsides across 11 villages of Barachana block. During monsoon this year, he has planted 600 saplings of fruit bearing plants.
Inspired by a local teacher Kishore Chandra Das who had started a similar initiative in the area, Jena decided to plant trees after he retired from the Indian Army. "When I left my village to join the Indian Army in 1985, it had hundreds of trees. But when I returned after 20 years, I found that the entire area had lost its green cover," he said.
Jena began by planting fruit-bearing trees on roadsides, river embankments and wastelands in Kalashree, Gajendrapur, Raipur, Parthapur, Fakirmian Patana, Saudia, Barapada, Bengapur, Kampagarh, Haladharapur, Niali, and Talua villages. Besides, he has planted hundreds of trees on Bahadiha hill which was barren till a decade back.
He maintains and nourishes these plants with his pension money. Jena spends around Rs 10,000 every month from his pension for purchasing saplings, planting and fencing materials, fertilisers and manure. "The mango trees that I had planted 15 years back, have started bearing fruits. Locals are collecting the mangoes and selling them in the market to earn a living," he said.
His aim is to plant over one lakh fruit trees. And till then, there's no stopping him.
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