Married at the age of 16, didn’t attend school for a day, Prabha Devi Semwal, a resident of Palasat village, Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand, has shown the world what eagerness to conserve mother Earth can make one do. When Prabha Devi realized that a man’s selfish desire could pose a severe threat to the environment in the future and very soon there would be no trees left on Earth to provide us oxygen, she took the hard pledge to make a forest in her field.
“They would take down tree after tree to make way for buildings like offices or homes. Nobody was motivated to plant even one tree. Lands were becoming barren, and the Earth was deteriorating. I concluded that my land was in grave danger if I didn’t act to safeguard it. Wherever I discovered a small bit of bare land, I just continued planting,” explains Prabha Devi with a hearty chuckle.
Forests support most life on Earth, but there has been a continual fall in forest cover because of human selfishness, which s terrible news for every species on Earth and wreaks havoc on our biosphere.
At 67, Prabha Devi reduced the issue by planting trees in her fields. She began by cultivating vegetables to feed her animals, and over time, the entire forest spread across her property.
The pahadi people rely heavily on forests for their way of life. Every day, village women travel to the forest to gather wood for cooking and feed their animals. There was a time when illicit logging and landslides made it difficult for the residents of Palasat village to get materials from the forest. It took this diligent lady of the hills a whole six decades to see the outcome of her intensive labor come to life.
The entire town is perplexed by Prabha Devi’s incredible vigor, even at 76. Her 44-year-old son Manish goes spellbound whenever he visits his parents’ hill cottage. The idyllic residence of Prabha Devi Semwal is a peaceful place nestled in the middle of a thick forest.
Prabha Devi is of the opinion that ‘Education should encourage consideration of nature and the environment rather than destroying it. We are harming ourselves if we don’t care for Mother Earth.‘
She had been traveling to gather fuelwood and fodder since she was young but had never cut a tree down from the root. The land and the lives of the people in her neighbourhood have benefited from her undeniable labour and contribution.
The hard-working, inspiring lady has been of nodal importance in protests for implementing Green taxation in Uttarakhand.
Prabha Devi is an eye-opening example that heroes don’t need to possess guns or degrees to be a changemaker; awareness and the desire to do something is enough to bring the change required!