Ordinary man on extraordinary mission

Abdur Razzak is no ordinary tree lover. He plants trees anywhere but on his own land, and he even took loan from the bank for the purpose — to ensure a hospitable environment for future generations.

A resident of Dakhkhin Sinduna village in Hatibandha upazila, Razzak is married with two children. The 37-year-old holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hatibandha Alimuddin Degree College and supports his family from his modest income as an employee at a private firm. He tutors students after work to support his passion for trees. 

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Erosion of the nearby Teesta river and recurrent droughts in the area devastated Razzak’s family six times in the past. Taking lessons from the experience, he made it his mission to do something about it.

After realising that afforestation might be a solution to the sufferings, Razzak started planting trees alongside public roads in the upazila in 2007. He also plants trees around educational institutions and houses of worships.  

Till date, Razzak planted around 1.25 lakh trees and about seventy percent of those — medicinal, fruit and timber — have survived, Razzak said.

“In 2014, I took a loan of Tk 25 thousand from Sonali Bank. I spent the money for buying saplings that I planted alongside government roads. I haven’t been able to pay off the loan yet.”

Nearly 45 kilometres of roads — Hatibandha-Sinduna, Hatibandha-Pathantari, Hatibandha-Champaful and Hatibandha-Dhubni — and roughly four kilometres of land around different establishments of the upazila are now blanketed in trees planted by him, he said proudly.

He plants trees in the greater interest of the community. And that is why he chooses public roads and land around different educational and religious establishments so that no particular individual, including his family members, can claim ownership of the plants in future.

“I don’t expect any personal gains from the trees I planted and I dream of turning the world greener by planting trees till I breathe my last,” Razzak said with twinkle in his eyes.

His father Nurul Haque, a farmer, said he initially did not like it when his son started spending money out of his own pocket to plant trees on someone else’s land.

But after realising that Razzak’s act is vital in maintaining environmental balance, he now feels proud of his son’s work, he also said.

Villager Mozammel Haque said it seemed like a crazy idea when Razzak was spending his own money to plant trees along the roads. But now that the trees are providing shade for pedestrians, he and others in the area are more appreciative of Razzak’s benevolent deed.

Contacted, Hatibandha Upazila Nirbahi Officer Samiul Amin said as Razzak has become an inspiration for others in the area, they recommended his name for an environmental award given by the forest department.