By V.N. Balakrishna
Ahmedabad, Feb 23 (IANS) | He is a man with a green thumb. Jitendra Patel, an environmentalist known for his penchant for planting trees, is now busy transforming a dry creek into a thickly wooded land replete with fruit and spice-bearing plants.
He has taken up this Herculean task in Derol village in neighbouring Sabarkantha district, about 80 km from Ahmedabad. He has purchased the land to transform it into a nature lover’s paradise.
“This new park is coming up on 68 acres of land and rests on a dried-up creek on a riverbed refill and is similar to my Tirupati park,” Jitendra Patel, a civil engineer by qualification, told IANS.
Patel had earlier planted more than 200,000 trees in his Tirupati Nature Park in Mehsana district, 100 km from here.
“I believe nature is a kind mother and trees are sacred objects. You respect nature and she will keep you healthy. It is the way our life functions and we must understand at all times that we are part of nature,” says Patel.
He is a recipient of the prestigious Priyadarshini Indira Gandhi Vruksha Mitra environmental national award, which carries a cash prize of Rs.50,000.
Born into a farming family and a diploma holder in civil engineering, 47-year-old Patel says, “The main charm of the place lies in its creeks and estuaries. This is where modern man, exhausted as he is from pollution and tension, can enjoy the freshness of nature far from the madding crowd.”
“A combined effort of a farmer within and an engineer without helped me design my dream,” Patel says.
The park promises to be a refreshing getaway for people from towns like Himmatnagar, Modasa and Disa.
“It won’t be long before the area will be agog with the chirping of migratory birds and wildlife – even crocodiles and snakes, if the forest department allows me to bring them here. I am fond of snakes, they are good friends.”
Apart from a building, the open areas consist of a nature trail, space for camping, a future botanical field, and recreation and training programmes.
According to Patel, the park has almost all varieties of fruit – bananas, oranges and almonds. There are as many as 150 spice trees and ayurvedic plants commonly found in the Balaram-Ambaji wild sanctuary in north Gujarat and in high altitude areas in northern and southern India.
“I want to plant one million trees here,” says an optimistic Patel.
Patel has also built 15 check dams to meet the water needs of the Derol park. Solar energy will be used to run the park.
The park sits on a one-metre deep garbage fill, which is a reclaimed part of the creek. Several projects, including landscaping, a water reservoir and recreation centres are the main attraction of the garden.
“We have more than 200,000 plants to make the park green,” said A.K. Patel, a former joint director of agriculture who shoulders the responsibility of the plantation drive jointly with Jitendra Patel.
“Through the collaborative efforts of the National Orchard Board as well as people, the park intends to demonstrate the reversal of pollution and is bent on providing a thickly wooded area,” he said.
Inspired by Jitendra Patel’s enthusiasm, Banaskantha district official R.J. Patel has now approached him.
“I have invited Jitendra Patel to turn the large tracts of barren areas in Banaskantha into a green belt as he has done elsewhere in Mehsana and Sabarkantha district. I have asked him to plant 10,000 neem trees,” R.J. Patel said.