Manoj Singh does not merely plant trees. He changes the lives around him with every sapling he plants.
The 40-year-old Coal Belt-based physiotherapist has turned a green crusader with a greater purpose. Singh, who has planted more than 50,000 plants in various parts of Dhanbad besides his native place at Aurangbad, Bihar, has linked his environment conservation projects with development of leprosy-affected villages.
At least two such colonies ' Birsa Kusth colony in Bhowra and Durgapur Kusth colony in Jharia ' have benefited from the initiatives taken by Singh, who holds a degree in AIDS and family education from Indira Gandhi University and one in physiotherapy from Magadh University.
At Birsa Kusth colony, Singh first dug a pond with the help of some like-minded people in March 2010 for starting a fishery project, which was aimed at augmenting the income of villagers.
"As we won the confidence of the locals (there is a small group of 38 families), we started planting saplings of fruity plants. In 2010 alone, we planted over 60 mango saplings with the pond providing enough water for irrigation. The villagers, many of who suffer from leprosy, earned profit by selling the mangoes in 2011. So, they got readily convinced when we proposed to plant papaya trees in 2011. We planted a total of 150 saplings," said Singh.
Singh also formed two self-help groups of 10 local women each and provided stitching and embroidery training to them. Now, the women are selling cloth bags made by them to nearby shops.
"As we could not have otherwise convinced the villagers to undertake plantation work, we deliberately linked it with income generation schemes," said Manoj Singh, adding that people of the colony were now carrying out plantation in nearby areas to earn money.
Same was the experience of Singh and his team, when they started work, under the banner of NGO Life, at Durgapur Kusth colony comprising 28 families.
They began counselling the residents, who are fighting evils like liquor addition and gambling, in 2011.
"We are in the process of constructing a pond at Durgapur Kusth colony on the lines of the one at the Birsa Kusth colony. So far, we have planted 20 mango trees and 10 papaya trees there," said Singh.
Singh and Co. also conduct door-to-door campaigns, awareness programmes in schools and sent bulk SMSes to residents, urging them to carry out plantation work. Till now, Singh has planted trees at Bhowra, Patherdih, Chasnala, Mohalbani, Jharia, Bastacola, Kandra, Bhaga and Katras.
The green crusader tried another innovative way to convince people to plant more and more trees.
"We conducted a mohalla-wise campaign in Jharia and convinced people to plant a tree on the occasion of their children's birthday in 2010-11. Once they did so, they got emotionally attached with the trees and nurtured them. We also gifted saplings to over 1,000 newly wed couples as a symbol of their married life," he said.