A blind man has turned a five-kilometre stretch of barren land near his home in Orissa into lush greenery during the last 12 years. Sounds amazing but it's true.
Srinibas Jena of Bhagipur village in the coastal district of Cuttack, in eastern India, did not use any magical prowess to achieve the feat.
Jena lost his eyesight when he was only five years of age. One day, he heard on radio a programme on the importance of forests and healthy environment.
"The programme spoke of how one could be self-reliant by planting trees. That is how the mission started," said Jena.
"Initially, I planted a few cashew nut trees but now there are mango, guava and other fruit bearing trees as well," Jena told IANS.
The man, who walks with the help of a stick, rarely makes a mistake while identifying the trees.
Bhagipur is home to about 1,500 people of different castes. Jena has become a celebrity among villagers with his tree plantation and conservation drive.
His 'forest territory' begins from the backyard of his home and ends at a hill in government land.
"When Jena lost his vision due to illness, we thought he would be a burden on us and would have to survive by begging. But he proved us wrong. He is better than many people with eyesight," said Jena's farmer-uncle Bagirathi.
Jena watered the saplings and protected the trees from marauding elephants with the help of his wife Kuni, who married him to help in his mission.
"He has the amazing power to predict elephants approaching our plantations," Kuni said.
"Each year, we earn our livelihood selling fruits from these trees. Sometimes we earn Rs.20,000 and sometimes it even goes up to Rs.30,000. Whatever we get we are happy," she said.
Remarked Suresh Mishra, an officer of the wildlife department: "It's great work, something which will inspire people to follow in Jena's footsteps."