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Captain Planet: 104-year-old Thimmakka’s Quest from Karnataka to save Mother Earth

Thimmakka received National Citizens Award in 1996 and Godfrey Philips Award in 2006 and the US's Thimmakka's Resources for Environmental Education has been named after her

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Salamarada Thimmakka. Image source: www.mastersconnection.com
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  • Born in Hulikal village in Bangalore’s rural area, she was born to a family of labour workers and worked through her childhood instead of acquiring any education
  • And after failing to conceive for 25 years, the couple gave up the desire of a child and decided to raise trees instead
  • With total 384 trees sown as saplings in over 50 years, the sweet reaping is brought to the entire world as a contribution towards afforestation

Not all heroes wear capes, some just have a handful of hope with them and they start doing their bit to change the world. And Thimmakka was one such woman, who was illiterate yet self-taught; she sustained her living and made the state of Karnataka a greener and better place to live in. This story is of Thimmakka, who has grown 384 trees in Karnataka.

Thimmakka, who turned 104, this year in 2016, led a life of poverty. Born in Hulikal village in Bangalore’s rural area, she was born to a family of labour workers and worked through her childhood instead of acquiring any education. Soon she was married to a cattle rearer, Bekal Chikkayya. They earned a little living by cutting stones and by tilling land. And after failing to conceive for 25 years, the couple gave up the desire of a child and decided to raise trees instead, reported IndiaToday.

Thimmakka with the trees she has planted. Source: alchetron.com
Thimmakka with the trees she has planted.
Source: alchetron.com

Thimmakka, along with her husband began sowing Banyan seeds decades ago. Beginning with only ten saplings in the first year at a stretch of 4 kilometres, they increased the number of seedlings each year. The couple not only planted them but also took pains to watered them regularly and protected them from cattle graze.

Thimmakka with one of her recognitions. Source: Wikipedia
Thimmakka with one of her recognitions. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thimmakka has been conferred with many awards for her environmentalist social work like the National Citizens Award in 1996 and Godfrey Philips Award in 2006. The United State’s Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education has been named after her. And a film has been made on her too. But it is bothering to know that despite all her effort and contribution, Thimmakka has only received awards and certificates over the years, but no money to enhance her work. She also dreams of establishing a hospital, but she lacks funds.

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After Chikkayya’s demise in 1991, the trees he planted continue to flourish even today. With total 384 trees sown as saplings in over 50 years, the sweet reaping is brought to the entire world as a contribution towards afforestation. These trees have been planted from Kudur to Hulikal. The locals of the village call her ‘Saalumurada’, which in Kannada means ‘row of trees.’

– prepared by Chetna Karnani at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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Researchers Look for Alternatives To Chemical Fertilizers for a Cleaner Environment

Too many nutrients in the water leads to poor water quality by causing hazardous algal blooms.

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Fertilizers
A farming woman spreads fertilizer in a paddy field. Flickr

Fertilizer is made of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Chemical fertilizers require huge amounts of energy to produce. But there are other, natural and more readily available sources.

The University of Michigan, with support from the National Science Foundation, is working at making our water cleaner, and our agriculture more sustainable, by capturing one of those sources, rather than flushing it down the toilet.

On a hot summer afternoon near Brattleboro, Vermont, farmer Dean Hamilton has fired up his tractor and is fertilizing his hay field — with human urine.

It takes a bit of time to get used to, says environmental engineer Nancy Love.

“I’ve been surprised at how many people actually get beyond the giggle factor pretty quickly,” she said, “and are willing to listen.”

Fine-tuning the recycling

Rich Earth Institute, a nonprofit, is working with Love and her team. Abraham Noe-Hays says they are fine-tuning new methods to recycle urine into fertilizer.

“There’s a great quote by Buckminster Fuller about how pollution is nothing but the resources that we’re not harvesting, and that we allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value,” he said.

Harvesting the resource of urine — which is, after all, full of the same nutrients as chemical fertilizer — will fix two problems at once: eliminate waste and create a natural fertilizer.

The Rich Earth Institute has been using urine as fertilizer since 2012. Kim Nace says they collect about 26,000 liters a year, thanks to a loyal group of dedicated donors.

“We now have people who have some source-separating toilets in their homes. We also have people who have 55 gallon (200-liter) barrels where they collect and then we transport to our farms, and we’ve also got a large urine depot,” Nace said.

`fertilizers
Fertilizers. Wikimedia Commons

They pasteurize the urine to kill any microbes, and then it is applied directly onto hay fields like Hamilton’s.

Next level of project

Now that they’ve partnered with the University of Michigan, Love says they’re looking to take their project to the next level.

“There are three things we really are trying to do with the urine in this kind of next phase. We’re trying to concentrate it. We’re trying to apply technologies to reduce odor, and we’re trying to deal with trace contaminants like the pharmaceuticals,” she said.

Dealing with pharmaceuticals is an important issue. Heat urine kills germs but has no effect on chemicals like drugs that pass through our bodies.

“We know pharmaceuticals are a problem for aquatic organisms and water systems,” Love said. “It’s debatable about the impact on human health at very, very low levels. Independent of that, I think most people would prefer that they not be in their food.”

Fertilizers
Farmer Scott Halpin is facing another year of high prices for seed and fertilizer, and low prices for the corn and soybeans his family is planting on farmland outside Morris, Illinois.

21st century infrastructure

For Love, this is all about redesigning our wastewater infrastructure for the 21st century. Too many nutrients in the water leads to poor water quality by causing hazardous algal blooms.

“Our water emissions are going into very sensitive water bodies that are vulnerable to these nutrient loads,” she said. “We need to change that dynamic. And if we can capture them and put them to a beneficial use, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Also Read: Common Plastic Chemical May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Their efforts could make agriculture greener and our waterways cleaner. (VOA)