If determination and dedication could be considered as virtues, Odisha man Epari Krishna Rao would definitely be a champion.
The 75-year-old is an environment crusader from Berhampur, who believes that maintaining one’s city need not be the responsibility of its municipal corporation or development authority as even citizens can make an active contribution.
He has been doing so since 2010 when he shelled out lakhs of rupees from his coffers and planted trees along the inner boundary of the Khallikote College Stadium that would benefit numerous walkers using the walking lanes with shade and cool atmosphere.
His next crusade was in 2016, when he decided to convert a patch of land between the busy Kamapalli Square in the city to a mini-park and down two years, he continues to spend an amount of ₹ 10,000 every month from his pension towards its maintenance.
The retired electrical engineer told The Telegraph, “When the statue of former minister and social activist Brundaban Nayak was shifted to widen the Kamapalli Square in 2016, the Berhampur Development Authority (BDA) installed the statue in a small patch of land in a corner. The area was barricaded with iron pipes. When I saw it, I decided to develop the space as a mini-park. I took the BDA’s permission as well.”
Besides bringing quality grass and ornamental plants from the Garden City Bengaluru, he got statues and sculptures memorialising soldiers installed inside the park. Though there is high mast lighting at Kamapalli Square, Rao takes the additional effort of illuminating the area with a mobile and solar-powered mini-water fountain, which he gets from home every day without fail.
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Because the city suffers from water scarcity, Rao has to purchase water from private players to water the plants and keep the park green. He told the publication, “I am growing old and get tired maintaining the park. I am looking at the civic body and the BDA to take over its maintenance.”
Assisting Rao in his green endeavours are his friends Balkrishna and Shivalingam, who help maintain sanitation in the park premises and find great satisfaction in conserving their environment.
While the man has been the reason behind Khallikote College Stadium and Kamapalli Square having green patches around them today, Rao doesn’t take a single fruit or flower from the trees in the park that he helped develop. When green plantains line the trees, he takes personal interest to make fries out of these with the help of a cook and then distributes them among morning walkers. Even ripe bananas are given away to the people.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)