My name is Sumanth Shetty and I am volunteering with Greenpeace to save Junglistan. Prior to this I worked as a fund raiser with Greenpeace for a year. I have been in the forest from August 16 with Brikesh, Rajesh and Teju helping them build the tree house.
I think it was around the end of July that I had enrolled myself to volunteer for Greenpeace. I didn't know where I was heading but I knew I was going to make a difference. I landed in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. We were here to build a tree house along with Brikesh Singh but there was a catch. The tree house was going to be in the jungle. Yes, you heard me right "A tree house in the jungle". Chandrapur is filled with coal mines and power plants. It is really sad to see that many people here have been displaced many times over because of the coal mines and power plants. Also the coal mining here is not only affecting people but wildlife as well. After I reached here, I learnt a lot about wildlife from a wildlife activist Bandu Dothare and the volunteers from his group.
After struggling for 12 days in the forest we were able to complete building the tree house. The problems we faced were many, like transporting the materials needed into the forest which was even more complicated sometimes because of the rain. The slush and thorns were a big hindrance then, but we have gotten used to it now. We wouldn't have been able to complete the tree house or setup the solar panel without Rajesh's help.
But that was just the start. On September 1, Brikesh occupied the tree house where he was going to live for one month. Since then Rajesh and myself spend alternate nights with Brikesh, along with an Eco-Pro volunteer, since the forest is also home to snakes, leopards and bears!
During my stay in the tree house I have had many exciting experiences. One of them was when I almost stepped on a snake when I was walking towards the tree house. I freaked out and started running away from it. But that's when I realized that the snake was doing the same thing because it didn't expect me there. This is when I learnt that wildlife is not dangerous unless you look like a threat to them.
And then there was one night when it just wouldn't stop raining. It was around 11.30 pm and I woke up when I heard Brikesh screaming, "Math aao re baba, math aao" (Don't come baba don't come). I jumped up and looked outside the window. I saw two Eco-Pro volunteers trying to cross the flooded river. They were here to give us our dinner but the storm was so rough that the water in the river next to the tree house had increased and the current was strong. Somehow they managed to cross it and we insisted that they stay back in the tree house and leave only in the morning, but they wouldn't listen. So we helped them cross the river by anchoring one end of a rope to the tree and the other to one of the volunteers.
Well, this is how it has been so far. People keep asking me why I am doing this. What difference will it make? I am here because I want to be the change. I want to save the forest from coal mines. When an ordinary man is ready to leave everything and live in a jungle to save it, I think that makes a difference. When I am not doing this I am just an average 22 year old, leading an ordinary life back in Bangalore. But this time it's going to be different because when I am back home with my friends and the debate about saving the planet comes up, I know I have contributed my best and I will continue to do so.
Show your support for forests: www.junglistan.org/act