Vanarai,a voluntary organisation founded by Mohan Dharia in 1982,has spread its roots in many parts of Maharashtra and even in villages in some other states,executing the mission for sustainable development.
Having its network in more than 250 villages,Vanarai has become a peoples movement,working to make these small towns and hamlets clean,green and self-sufficient in adherence to Gandhian ideology.
Afforestation,agriculture with modern methods,animal husbandry and bio-gas technique were some of the development tools Dharia took to the villages to ensure sustainable development. His focus was also to eradicate illiteracy among the rural population,spreading awareness about family planning and creating local employment opportunities for the benefit of the rural youth with the involvement of villagers.
To conserve water,Vanarai invented the method of erecting bunds in nullahs or rivulets using empty cement or fertiliser bags filled with soil or sand. This cost-effective and simple technology became a hit in many villages with more than 3,00,000 Vanarai bunds getting erected so far.
A staunch supporter of the Gandhian principle of reverse migration,Dharia,through Vanarai,succeeded in achieving the goal in Gawadewadi (Pune district),Varandh (Raigad district) and Zari (Latur district). The count is still on.
In cooperation with the Software Institute for Rural Development,Vanarai has been into development of indigenous software solutions for various government projects aimed at rural development. Vanarai Watershed A to Z software,which meets the requirement of grassroot-level functionaries,is one of the technological solutions provided by Dharia and his team. Now,complicated contour maps can be drawn using the cost-effective software. Another software,Agribusiness A to Z,aims to provide scientific knowledge regarding proper seed,crop variety saplings,nutrients and other requirements with due consideration to soil type,rainfall and weather conditions in a particular region.
When Dharia was a member of the National Wasteland Development Board,he had moved a resolution for Joint Forestry Management (JFM) to involve local Adivasi (tribal) and nearby people to protect and conserve forest in the country.
Along with several other villages,Vanarai adopted Gokwadi village in Bhor taluka of Pune district and successfully participated in JFM. With the involvement of villagers,the forest adjoining the village is well protected. It has nearly 2 lakh teakwood and about 5,000 sandalwood trees,say Vanarai records.
The organisation has distributed more than 2 crore trees among villages as well as various housing complexes to increase the green cover.
Environmentalist Madhav Gadgil,a member of the advisory council of Vanarai,said Dharia shaped the destiny of many villages through the voluntary organisation he founded for green cause. Dharia was deeply connected with Vanarai. The cause of rural development and one of the means to achieve it water-shed development was very close to his heart, he said.
Educationist Bhushan Patwardhan,another member of the advisory council,said Dharia scarified several lucrative offers from the government to head its boards and statutory bodies for spearheading Vanarai. His integrity and commitment towards work was unbelievable. Old age never proved a constraint. While environmental issues are widely discussed today,Dharia started working on it three decades ago through Vanarai, he said.