Abdul Hamid Bhat who started as a scooter mechanic is the owner of Rahim Motors, one of the biggest automobile workshops in Srinagar. But his passion is to create Green spaces in the Kashmir Valley. He uses substantial chunk of his earnings from automobile business and invests in a venture called Rahim Greens.
So far Abdul Hamid has planted over two lakh trees in the barren lands and forest areas that have faced massive vandalism over the years. By 2030 he's planning to complete his mission of planting one million trees in the valley.
In Budgam district, Sutharan forest was denuded after thousands of alpine trees were cut down by timber smugglers. Ten year ago Abdul Hamid decided to start afforestation there. Today, Sutharan is restored back to its glory - a thick alpine forest has come up. Hamid says, it's all about common man's social responsibility and gives him happiness.
“I feel so happy. If you had visited here 10 years ago, it was like a desert, all trees were cut down, only five to 10 trees were left. Today it's a lush green forest,” said Mr Hamid.
“I don't have any fund-raising system nor any NGO. I am spending from personal earnings, ad a concept of common man's social responsibility, whatever you earn or learn what you will return to society,” he said
But it was not possible without the support of local villagers, including reformed timber smugglers. Ghulam Mohiudin, the village head at Sutharan says after Abdul Hamid started plantation, they joined the mission and gave people a reason to grow forests.
“The people of this area had only known one thing to cut down forests. They had no concept of growing them. Then one Dr Sheikh brought Hamid Sahib here. Since 2012 Hamid Sabib started plantation of trees till last year, we as Protection Front and also villagers supported him,” said Mr. Mohiudin .
The support from the villagers encouraged Abdul Hamid even further. For his mission of million trees, he has now tied up with Shere Kashmir Agriculture University and started alpine nursery which will provide one lakh saplings every year.
“Anyone comes here sees a difference. Now I have collaborated with the agriculture university. They have provided land and I'm growing nursery there,” he said.
“The same people who were timber smugglers in the past have come forward to support the plantation mission. They see a hope that afforestation is bringing the area on tourism map,” said Mr. Hamid.
It has been rags to riches story for Abdul Hamid, who now has 200 employees in his automobile and diesel generator business. But Mr. Hamid says growing a tree and afforestation gives him the solace.