For Ranjitsinh Disale, assistant teacher at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in the drought prone Solapur, the world is his classroom. He has been empowering students to create a world that they want to live in. In order to make learning beyond school possible, Disale began pasting QR codes in textbooks to help students by creating a repository by tabulating resources for relevant data corresponding to the chapters/contents. But now, he has taken his QR codes a step further and is using technology to protect the environment. “We were facing a problem of tree cutting. Farmers were cutting trees for their own reasons.” With the help of the school students, Disale collected information about each tree in the village from the internet.
In 2013, he placed sensors on all the trees so that whenever anyone tries to cut them, it sends a message to the student who has adopted the tree. If anyone cuts the tree, then he will be asked to plant five trees and take care of it for a minimum of three years. The trees also carry QR codes, which when scanned sends out information regarding the name, age, economic and ecological importance of the tree. “Now, whenever a farmer tries to cut a tree, he gets information about the tree, and knowing the importance of that tree, he often refrains from doing so,” he says.
He is constantly raising awareness of the importance of conserving trees given that the region is prone to drought. Disale says, “the situation has forced me to act for the environment. Our village had been facing a problem of low rain. So to respond to this situation, I used QR codes to protect our environment.” When he started the project, he spent his entire month’s salary of Rs 20,000 for this activity, but gradually people began donating for the cause. Despite opposition from some villagers, he continued his mission to protect trees.
He segregated the trees into four categories A, B, C and D. A comprises trees aged 0-5; B 5-10; C- up to 15, and D category trees are rare and old trees. This was to inform villagers about the need to preserve rare and old species. It is impossible to prevent people from cutting trees for firewood, but Disale’s actions encouraged villagers to refrain from cutting rare species. This helped increase the tree cover from 25% to 36% in Solapur.
Now the same is being replicated in five countries – Italy, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and France. Officials from these countries contacted Disale through the National Geographic. NFS salutes Disale for showing the world that technology can be used to conserve trees.