DHARWAD: For the last 18 years, a businessman has been working diligently to increase the green cover in the city by planting saplings in gardens, schools and residential areas. Santosh Bhandari has planted them at Charantimath Garden and a school nearby, Sadhankeri Garden, Baala Balaga School that encourages experiential learning in the green, open spaces and in other public gardens.
He has reached a count of 10,000 saplings, but he does not think it is enough.
Bhandari says that you are not an environmentalist merely by planting trees. You need to learn to love and live with Nature. Therefore, he left the comforts of his family business and moved to Amblikoppa village near Nigadi in Dharwad, where he has been working in the field with his two children, who are ten years old.
Bhandari says he was inspired to make this change by his father Mohanlal Bhandari, activist Anna Hazare who led the anti-corruption movement that caught the country’s attention and water man Rajendra Singh.
He attended many workshops conducted by Anna Hazare and Rajendra Singh in connection with ‘Jeevan Vidya’, which is a philosophical movement that encourages co-existence. These discussions encouraged Bhandari to make his life-changing decision.
Before he left his family business, Bhandari had taken workers from their shop in the planting drive. “Even back then I had plans to start a nursery and an open school for children interested in learning about Nature,” he says.
Bhandari’s children, Janavi and Jeet, are happy to be given their lessons this way. They plan to enrol at National Institute of Open Studies for higher studies. For now, they say, they have learnt cooking and working in the fields.
It is a change in lifestyle. “From the last couple of months, I have been striving to use only public transport,” says Bhandari. “It is important to practise what you preach. By using public transport, I am proud that I am contributing my bit to saving Nature.”
“Attending lavish marriages and other functions doesn’t seem worthy to me. Instead of spending money on ornamental things, we could use it to increase greenery and to do work that will benefit the coming generations,” he says. His farmhouse does not keep a television, fridge and other advanced electronic gadgets.
“We have even switched to Ayurveda, to treat illnesses, to cut down on the cost of living,” he says. Recently, when his wife was down with dengue, they chose this method of treatment.
In his 20 acres, seven will be converted into undisturbed forest. “Man can create anything but he cannot produce mud,” he says. “It is important to grow the forest in farmlands and no one should enter it. At present, around ten guntas have been converted into forest in the farmland.”
Bhandari also makes swales (depressions in the landscape) to restrict the flow of rainwater, to let it seep into the groundwater table and recharge it. As many as seven such swales have been dug and around them fruits trees have been planted to retain the soil moisture. The businessman-turned-farmer says that it also helps grow healthy food.
Life in the farm
- Vegetables and foodgrains needed for the family are being grown on the farmland
- Honey collecting and agriculture has also been started to manage the expenditure of running
- the farm
- Growing medicinal plants and creating awareness about the importance of Ayurvedic medicine
- Raising awareness among landholder-neighbours on how to retain and save water, and increase greenery