The staff looks after a nursery prepared for plantation in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf and (right) Mohammedi S. Darbar points to the neem tree saplings he plans to plant in Najaf.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
The staff looks after a nursery prepared for plantation in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf and (right) Mohammedi S. Darbar points to the neem tree saplings he plans to plant in Najaf.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: As millions of pilgrims gather in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala today to commemorate Arbaeen, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Husain, the staff at a Malir farm located far away from Karachi’s chaotic traffic is filled with unusual excitement.

“We are eagerly waiting for our departure on 28th of this month via Iran to Iraq’s city of Najaf where we plan to plant 48,000 young trees/plants in the first instalment,” Mohammedi S. Darbar tells Dawn as he takes this writer around his farm located on the main Damlotee Road in Malir.

These carefully chosen trees and plants would gain more height and provide shade next year and facilitate the pilgrims, he added.

At the age of 85, Darbar Sahib as he was lovingly called by his friends, is actively engaged in business and farming. The latter he has been doing out of his love for nature for many years.

Sharing how he got and processed the idea of tree plantation at the official level in Najaf, he said that hundreds and thousands of pilgrims arrived in Karbala to commemorate Arbaeen after walking about 80 kilometres from the holy city of Najaf, many of them barefoot, in a symbolic gesture of honouring Imam Husain.

Malir farmer intends to plant thousands of young trees in Iraq’s holy cities as a labour of love

“Najaf has a hot desert climate with long and very hot summers and mild winters. I believe it’s an honour to facilitate the pilgrims in any way,” he said.

The young trees/plants being looked after at the farm for plantation in Najaf included neem, gulmohar, moringa, Tikoma, Tubukia, peepal, keekar, shesham and Sumbul.

A special trailer truck is being prepared to carry these trees to Najaf through Iran by road. The entire cost would be borne by Darbar Sahib and he is not ready to share it with anyone.

“Many of my friends have offered to implement this project and share the cost but I have refused. I want to do it alone,” he said, adding that Najaf’s soil was very fertile and there was plenty of water available for plantation.

To ensure that plantation programme is successful, the areas have been surveyed and the soil tested.

Some of the local plants from Karachi have also been grown at a nursery in Najaf on an experimental basis and showed positive outcomes.

Darbar Sahib also plans to plant trees in and around the mazar of Imam Husain, Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Abbas and near the Tigris River.

Asked about whether these trees could sustain Najaf’s weather, Darbar Sahib replied that he decided to cultivate and grow many of these plants to maturity so their chances of dying or stagnant growth were reduced.

According to him, an agreement has been signed with the local authorities in Najaf which have agreed to facilitate him by providing all kinds of government approvals, providing required visas and customs’ exemptions.

Under the agreement, Darbar Sahib has committed to provide 500,000 seedlings subject to soil conditions. The plantation would be considered a donation and taken care of for three years by him.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019