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‘Intention without action is nothing’ and this 82-year-old shepherd from Malavalli taluk of Mandya district has proved it in the most incredible manner. Can any environmentalist claim or take credit of greening an entire hillside and culminating 14 ponds?

It was about 40 years ago when Kamegowda realized that Kundinibetta hill which is located beside his village was barren and had almost no greenery. He saw many birds and animals getting affected due to lack of a watering hole and decided to do something about it.

Kamegowda

image: source

The only source of water in the hills was through the rain, but the water flowed down its slopes, leaving the area dry for most of the year. There was hardly any water retention as whatever little left, either it got absorbed in the ground or evaporated in the air.

It was then, Kamegowda came with an idea to develop a pond to provide animals and birds a watering hole. In a span of 40 years, he has spent about 10-15 lakhs developing, designing and maintaining these 14 ponds and has named some of them after his grandchildren. Most of the amount he has invested was from the awards he has won throughout his life. In 2017, he got Basavashri Award for his immense contribution towards nature.

When The New Indian Express visited his haven, there was a half-completed house on a two-acre land and the hill was all decked up 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.

A couple of weeks ago, Kamegowda had an eye surgery and the doctor advised him to stay indoors so that he doesn’t catch an infection. To that, 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. If I give my children, grandchildren money, it will be spent and they’ll become bankrupt. Instead, if I give them these ponds that have water throughout the year, they will be the richest,’’ says Kamegowda, who resides in a small incomplete house.

When some people give me cash for my personal use, I will say yes, and like a drunkard who spends all that money on liquor, I spend the money on the ponds. It is an addiction!’’ he says to Indian Express.

It took four decades of will and hard work to create a beautiful haven for the residents of Daasanadoddi village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district. There is no water shortage in the area, thanks to Kamegowda and the ponds remain filled with water throughout the year, even during summers.

He has earned the title of “Madman” due to his addiction to make the hill green. For the last 4 decades, 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 said.

Due to his strange way of doing things and his never-ending passion and hard work, Kamegowda has faced 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 adds.