Green fingers: Wildlife photographer transforms barren land into evergreen mini-forest – The New Indian Express

Green fingers: Wildlife photographer transforms barren land into evergreen mini-forest - The New Indian Express


Express News Service

HOSAPETE: A tree starts with a seed. And so do aspirations. In a short span on the earth, we humans try to create happiness around us. What more than planting a sapling that will live for more than 100 years giving not just us, but our future generations, the precious oxygen. The 53-year-old Pompayya Malemath is doing just that. A wildlife photographer from Kamalapur in Vijayanagar district near the famous ruins of Hampi, Malemath has transformed a barren patch of land into an evergreen mini-forest in less than a decade.

Malemath wears different hats —  a wildlife enthusiast, photographer, birdwatcher and snake rescuer. When he dreamt of creating a mini-forest in his dryland, many did not believe that he could achieve what he set out to do. But today, the same people enjoy the scenic change in the landscape, where 800 trees of 60 varieties planted in 2013 stand tall. For Malemath, the journey was not easy.

First, he had to prepare the dry land to plant the saplings. He moved large rocks and prepared the soil by adding water and organic manure. Besides enriching his small patch of land with shade-giving trees from the Western Ghats, Malemath also turned a 2.5-acre adjacent government land leased out to him by the Vijayanagar administration into a mini-forest. The green patch now attracts birds in large numbers and one important visitor is the yellow-throated bulbul. Malemath conducts bird-watching sessions, talks on herpetology and eco-tours in the mini-forest where he has set up a base camp for tourists.

Today, many nature enthusiasts visit Malemath’s mini-forest and take his advice on planting the right species on their farms. “I always dreamt of developing a green patch in the dry land here. Finally, I have fulfilled my aim. I take care of the trees like my own children,” Malemath says. But the dry, rocky region wasn’t suitable to grow large trees. “Hampi and surrounding places have many rocky patches and are not suitable to grow large trees. The annual rainfall is also less. But with dedication and constant care, I was able to grow large trees in this dryland,” he explains.

“Today, I welcome schoolchildren to the mini-forest for various activities, including bird-watching and herpetology classes. There have been several instances where snakes suddenly appear during nature programmes and students have a first-hand experience of seeing the reptiles from a close distance. Several rare bird species have been documented here,” he adds.

Shivashankar Banagar, a well-known photographer from Hampi, says Malemath is an inspiration for him and many wildlife photographers. “His efforts in creating the mini-forest are known to all. His commitment towards nature conservation is amazing,” he adds.