It is often stated that age is just a number when you’re utterly dedicated for working towards your passion or interest. A perfect epitome for this statement is Prabha Devi’s life story, a 76 year-old woman who has planted an entire forest on her own in her village. Even approaching 70s has not stopped her for working towards the conservation of the forest ecosystem and we’re left speechless with her enigmatic energy and tireless efforts. The tranquil village of Palashat which comes under the district of Rudraprayag now has a forest entirely planted by her on a small holding of land. Located a few kilometers away from her home, her routine consists of walking to the forest everyday till and spending most of her time working there. The sight of tall trees gives her a sigh of relief as she has built a legacy of her own to leave behind for her upcoming generations as well as for the villagers. His son, Manish Semwal, a 44-year-old working professional admits that she couldn’t even spend a day away from her forest.
In a conversation with The Logical Indian, Prabha Devi shares, “There was a steep increase in deforestation activities in and around our village. People want to construct new buildings or resorts after chopping trees and the entire ecosystem of forests was getting disturbed. I felt sad to see the forests being mercilessly cut down for fulfilling materialistic needs of humans. My family had a small piece of land which was left uncultivated. I started planted trees on that land and even around my home. Now, it has turned into a dense forest and I aim to plant more trees on barren land.”
With her will-power and continuous efforts, she has planted more than 500 trees in her village. An avid nature lover, she holds immense knowledge about hilly-trees and conditions required for their suitable growth. On asking, she confronts that she has learnt it by doing plantation activities for decades in hilly terrains. Married at the age of 16, she never went to school and doesn’t know how to read or write, but her sensitivity towards environmental issues is something which all of us could take a lesson from. She has been named as ‘friend of tree’ in local dialect by the villagers and her work surely approves of it.
“We belong to a family of grazers and Ma has been looking after all cattle rearing activities since she was married. Even after managing all household chores and other responsibilities, she was never exhausted and gave excuses to not spend time looking after or planting trees. If you visit the forest, you would find rare species of plants about which she holds a great deal of information. I do not recollect a single day pass by when she has not worked on that land planting trees. Her love for nature and her dedication towards it remains incomprehensible to me.” shares Manish Semwal while talking with The Logical Indian about her mother.
The lowering of underground water table levels is a serious cause of concern in hilly areas. However, Prabha Devi suggests that it could be counteracted by growing local species of trees such as ‘Baanj’ in nearby regions which help in uplifting water levels. Apart from being good for the local environment, it could be used as fodder or even in agro-based activities which the villagers heavily rely upon. Near her home, the beautiful rhododendron trees, colorful shrubs and ‘Rudraksh’ trees could also be spotted. The singing birds in forest sound delightful to her grandchildren who love to spend time with her in their vacations.
“When we invite Maa to visit the city for a day, she simply refuses to come. She feels that her father-in-law has left the entire responsibility on her shoulders and it would be negligent on her side to leave her land even for a single day. She is deeply rooted in the Garhwali culture and strongly feels that our forests are as much important as the rituals which we solemnly swear by. Since all of us have moved out, she lends the produce from the forest to the local community members.” says Manish while talking to The Logical Indian.
The grit and dedication with which Prabha Devi has been continuously working, for increasing plantation of trees in her village, deserves a big round of applause. The Logical Indian salutes the efforts of this eco-warrior who is unstoppable on her mission of saving forests.