In Patuakhali's Galachipa upazila lies the village of Purbo Atkhali, where 82-year-old Sirajul Islam Hawladar is the renowned tree-planting guru. He turned his love for trees into a legacy for over seven decades.
Through these years, he has planted approximately 50,000 trees, tending to them like his kin. His green thumb transformed his own village and left an indelible mark on 10 more neighbouring ones.
Sirajul Islam Hawladar is the youngest and sole surviving brother of seven, who holds an MA degree from Dhaka Nesaria Kamil Madrasa. He was previously employed as an imam in different mosques within the upazila. However, he can no longer work with the same vibrancy due to health complications from his age.
When asked about the source of his motivation to pursue planting trees, Sirajul told Prothom Alo, "I was encouraged to plant trees at a young age. Trees provide oxygen, shade, and fruits. A weary traveller can sit in peace and rest under the shade of a tree." He further shares what kind of trees he enjoys planting, including but not limited to coconut, guava, grapefruit, palm, mahogany, raintree, and Sundari.
Sirajul meticulously nurtures seedlings at home, occasionally purchasing them from the local bazaar with his dime. According to local villagers, he has planted 150 betel nut saplings on the roadside within a few months!
With dedication, he plants these saplings in any available, empty spaces within the vicinity, tending to them throughout the day. These thrive along government roads and on land owned by people, providing both nourishment and shelter while boosting social revenue within the community.
Sirajul's youngest daughter, Hamida, is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree. While taking great pride in her father's passion, she also expresses her concerns.
"We're proud of his work. But he is getting weak due to old age, and we often tell him to stop, but he won't," said Hamida.
Despite family concerns regarding declining health, Sirajul remains loyal to his goal with unwavering determination. Just as his trees, his passions are deeply rooted and immovable.
Serving as a testament to his profound appreciation for Mother Nature. Sirajul emphasised, "I plant a tree whenever I see an empty land. Ownership doesn't matter; what matters is keeping nature healthy."
He said, "Everyone should follow him and plant trees. If one is chopped down, two should be planted. It is essential for the well-being of the environment."
Sirajul Islam Hawladar has no plans of stopping anytime soon, either. His loyalty to improving the local environment is a beacon of inspiration to Bangladesh and the rest of the world.