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At 80, Thimmakka Has Planted More than 8,000 Saplings

Kalesh Kumar's picture

I was in Karnataka, travelling to the village of Kudur in Ramanagara district, about 35 kms from Bengeluru (formerly Bangalore). The dusty road leading to Hulikal and Kudur village seemed monotonous, but for a four kilometer stretch, it came alive with massive trees, spreading shade and providing home to innumerable birds and animals. This unique pattern of the line of trees attracted everyone's attention and appreciation. That's when accompanying officials told us about environmentalist Saalu Marada Thimmakka.

Thimmaka was married young to a landless laborer Chinnappa and they made their living tilling land and cutting stones. Despite a long wait and countless prayers and poojas, the couple did not have any children. The personal suffering coupled with snide remarks of the society that looked down at childless couples as a curse from gods that lead them to a unique engagement that is now widely recognized.

Thimmakka and Chinnappa decided to adopt trees and plant saplings around their community. Soon enough, the trees came to occupy a prominent part in their lives. They spent all their time planting saplings in open spaces, on government lands, on the outskirts of the city and on either side of the roads. The saplings were watered by Thimmakka, fetching water from distant wells and ponds, at times, she carried 30 to 40 pots of water a day. The nearly four kilometer stretch between Hulikal and Kudur is a testimony to Thimmakka's efforts.

Thimmakka continues her mission of promoting environment conservation in the only way that she knows - planting saplings. At the last count, she has planted and raised more than 8,000 trees. Environmentalists estimate the value of Timmakka’s contribution, as anything not less than Rs. 150 crores (~$30 million). Due to her efforts, she has been. The Government of Karnataka constructed a home for Thimmakka in the village and the central government awarded Thimmakka with an Indira Priyadarshini Vriksh Mitra Award.

We were fortunate enough to have met her in her new house. Even at an elderly age, Thimmakka’s daily tasks and her focus are around trees and saplings. Always smiling and willing to meet people, Thimmakka continues her mission and was kind enough to offer a few saplings to us! We were greatly appreciative and happy to meet such a selfless person who truly loves nature and is making a big difference in her community.


Submitted by Geeta Shivdasani on
Kalesh,I am glad the government recognized Thimmakka's selfless contribution !

Submitted by Abdu Muwonge on
The story of Thimmakka and Chinnappa and their dream to nurture the environment is truly inspirational. Their contribution is so significant. They endured poverty and lack of resources and triumphed by taking on a saplings tree project whose benefits are innumerable. At 80! She still plants more trees! What a challenge! Good work Kalesh for pulling this nice article from your field visits.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Two minor points: 1. Thimmakka's story has been reported in the Indian press for the last eight years at least. She even has a Wikipedia page devoted to her. According to that page, a US environmental organisation is even named after her. 2. Since Indian naming conventions are different and even differ within India, it is worth noting that "Saalu Marada" is not Thimmakka's given name. The phrase means "of the row of trees" in the local Kannada language and has come to be attached to her name. Her name would be "Thimma"; "akka" means elder sister and is used here to show respect. It also indicates that she is childless: if Thimma had a child, she would have been referred to as "Thimmamma." By the same logic, her husband would be Chikkanna ("anna" meaning elder brother) and not Chikkappa. Indeed Chikkanna is how he is referred in this article:

Submitted by Douglas McLain on
I'll bet that if the World Bank offered to pay $0.10 for each tree planted and $10.00 for each tree grown to maturity, it would get far more value for its money than it does on most other projects. Benefits to World Bank would be shade, wood supply, water and soil conservation, CO2 capture, etc. Benefits to Thimmakka would be $80,000 for a life's work; not much but not bad either.

Submitted by Education Consultants karachi on
I like the design of your blog very much. It looks like a page from fairy tale. I’m really impressed!

Submitted by friv on
The story of Thimmakka and Chinnappa and their dream to nurture the environment is truly inspirational.

Submitted by Rachana on
What an inspiration! Environment friendly acts like this need to be appreciated more! Building factories and cities should happen alongside such activities as well. Thimmakka is truly an inspiration and I am glad that her story is part of the curriculum in our school, thanks to OUP for including her story in the Broadway series for class four students! The children at that age definitely need to know of such selfless acts of service to mankind!

Submitted by rhishitha on
i saw her and she has so many medals i mean like so many one full room is of her medals

Submitted by hello world on

Very nice. a good activity to improve the living environment. One of the biggest effects of urban greenery, is that it significantly improved people's living environment. With a population density of winter, along with emissions from factories, vehicles, ... the general state of the urban environment is not serious air pollution.
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