In the last few years, Mandya has suffered from acute water shortage. The farmers of the region have been distressed with successive monsoon failures, and have been demanding the government to release water to sustain livestock. The groundwater level has plummeted, and there have been many failures of borewells.
At a time like this, an old shepherd from Mandya has been persistently working towards saving the region’s natural resources so that water bodies there don’t dry up.
A resident of Dasanadoddi, Kamegowda has dug canals, built bunds, roads and check dams on top of a hill, in order to save the water that flows down from there. He has done all of this on his own, putting in his efforts continuously for the last 40 years, reports Deccan Herald.
Interestingly, Kamegowda never attended school but has a high level of expertise in water management systems in his village. He has created and maintained 14 ponds across an entire hillside at Dasanadoddi village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district, where all of these keep filling up one by one.
So, even when the area experiences drought, which it regularly does, there is enough water to sustain the livestock in the village.
What prompted the 82-year-old to shoulder the arduous task of transforming a barren hill into a veritable oasis that remains full even during the hottest summers?
The first time he noticed a glaring lack of watering holes on the Kundinibetta hill adjoining his village had been when he had taken his flock of sheep to graze there 40 years ago. Whenever rain hit the region, the hill could not retain any water. It flowed down the slopes because of sparse foliage as well as a lack of ponds and bund-like structures. It also struck him, more than anyone perhaps, that animals and birds suffered the most because of this. So he decided to do something about.
Kamegowda’s first attempt at making a pond began with the selling of a few of his sheep. He used the money to purchase a shovel, spade, pickaxe, and other tools to dig the pond. At the time, his sole intention was to help animals and birds easily avail water to survive.
While the first pond was dug by Kamegowda himself and took more than six months to complete, the rest were completed by hired workers, whom he paid out of his savings. The village is today replete with 14 interlinked ponds, all of which are connected through a smartly designed waterway that routes surplus water to the ponds downhill when the ones atop the hill overflow.
Kamegowda’s selfless green endeavours have helped transform the once water-short region into a green haven. Sadly this has also lead to him being nicknamed as a ‘madman’ by his ungrateful villagers and also losing many relatives over the period.
But the man is unperturbed for he believes his deeds have earned him better 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 said to The New Indian Express.
From spending close to ₹10-15 lakh for designing, developing and maintaining the ponds and for buying and growing grass across the hillock, Kamegowda’s selfless pursuit of environment conservation found statewide recognition when he was one of the recipients of the coveted Basavashri awards last year.
Like a parent, Kamegowda maintains these ponds religiously, funds for which were routed from the various awards that he has received over the years. Not a day goes by without Kamegowda visiting his creations. In fact, besides digging narrow paths to reach each of these ponds, he has also painted philosophical quotes on nature across the rocks on the way. An amazing contribution to the world indeed.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)