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JESSORE, Bangladesh - Ohid Sarder prises a rusted nail from a tree and drops it into his bucket, another eyesore scrubbed from the countryside as he embarks on a one-man mission to clean up Bangladesh.
The self-professed tree hugger, 53, has been riding his bicycle across the country, in a grassroots effort to free trees of the billboards and clutter nailed to their trunks.
Trees in Bangladesh are often used as free advertising space, with every available inch of wood plastered with placards until the trunk is barely visible.
The billboards might disintegrate over time but the nails remain embedded deep in the wood - agitating tree-lover Sarder, who has devoted his life to healing these wounds.
"Trees have life. They feel pain just as we do," the conservationist said in Jessore district in the country"s southwest.
"I have seen how these nails have killed trees, and how they are causing them pain."
Sarder grew up idolizing Jagdish Chandra Bose, a prominent Bengali botanist who wrote about the emotions of plants in the early decades of the 20th century.
Inspired, Sarder began planting trees in Jhenaidah, his home district, and neighboring Jessore, a passion he kept up for decades.
But this year it occurred to him that planting trees was not enough - he needed to protect those already under threat.
Traversing battered roads with a bicycle, bucket and a metal rod welded with prongs, Sarder began prying thick nails and spikes from abused trees across the country.
Since he began his beautification drive in July he has collected more than 80 kilograms of them.
"It looks easy, but it isn"t. It takes a lot of effort to pull out a rusted nail that has been there for years," he said.
It is arduous and thankless work.
But sensing an opportunity to educate the public about his mission, he attached a placard to his bicycle extolling the benefits of trees and merits of conserving nature. "I try my best to explain the importance of having more trees and inspire them to save more trees."
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