An 82-year-old shepherd from Malavalli taluk of Mandya district has done what many self-proclaimed environmentalists have failed to do. Kalmane Kamegowda, a person without any formal education, he has turned an entire hillside at Daasanadoddi village green over the past four decades by selling his sheep. Yesterday, he received the prestigious Rajyotsava Prashasti award for his amazing and hearty contribution to society. In the last 40 years, he has built over 14 ponds which retain water even during the scorching summer season. He maintains the ponds himself.
The Rajyotsava Prashahti is the second highest civilian award conferred by the Karnataka government to commemorate the state’s foundation day. The award is usually given out on November 1, but it got delayed this year due to polls in five constituencies and also due to the sudden demise of Union Minister Ananth Kumar. The winners received a prize of Rs 1 lakh, a gold medal and a citation on November 29 from the Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy.
Turning a barren land green
About 40 years ago, Kamegowda realised that Kundinibetta hill which is located beside his village had very less greenery. While he took his flock of farm animals to graze by the hillside, he saw many birds and animals restless due to the lack of a watering hole, reports The New Indian Express.
He realised that there was no water retention on the hill. Whatever water it received from the rain, either ran down the hillside or got evaporated or absorbed. That’s when he thought of developing a watering hole for the animals and birds.
The 2017 Basavashri awardee doesn’t remember when he started working for it but says that he has spent nearly Rs 10-15 lakhs for this. He has developed 14 ponds and named some of them after his grandchildren. All the money came from the various awards he won throughout his life.
When The New Indian Express visited his haven — a half-completed house on a two-acre land — the hill presented itself in lush green attire, thanks to the 14 ponds, linked by a waterway that ensures when the upper ponds on the hill are filled, the surplus water flows into the ponds below.
He had an eye surgery a couple of weeks ago and has been advised by the doctor to not to go out in case he catches an infection. But he says “I close my eyes and come out; I know every inch here. If a drunkard is advised not to drink, will he stop drinking? I too have an addiction.
Villagers call him ‘madman’
Kamegowda’s addiction to making the hill green made his relatives and fellow villagers call him a ‘madman’. For the last 40 years, every day from 5 am to 9 am he digs ponds and from 9 am to 7 pm he grazes his cattle. “Sometimes, I used to go to the hillock to dig a pond during the night with a lamp or also on a full moon day,’’ he says.
His dedication and passion brought a lot of problems in his personal life. His eccentric ways of doing things have resulted in him falling out with his relatives. “After I started digging ponds and spending all my savings on them, I started losing my relatives. But the trees, ponds, birds and animals became my relatives. Some made fun of me … some opposed me for using government land. But I did not stop. I can challenge anyone! Wherever I take up 5-6 ft of digging, there will be water which will not dry up … even during summers,” he says.
He even got grass from outside to make the hills greener. When people give him cash, like a drunkard who spends all his money on booze, Kamegowda would spend all his money for building ponds.
You can read the entire story on The New Indian Express.
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