Forest and village saved by a one-woman army. Meet 76 YO Prabha Devi.

prabha devi semwal

Married at 16 without attending a single day of school, this youngster could fore-see the dangers approaching the forests and the environment all due to Man’s selfish needs. Six decades later she is witnessing her fruits of labour and how she stopped the forests and her village from being destroyed. We are talking about a 76 Yo Prabha Devi Semwal  (Ma) from Palasat village of Rudraprayag district in Uttarakhand. Ma firmly asserts that Education should make us think about the nature and the environment and not destroy. If one doesn’t take care of Mother Earth; we are destroying ourselves. Yes, today’s COVID 19 pandemic is a great reminder of this.

Newly married bride arrives…

As a newly married bride, can anyone think of shouldering such a huge responsibility? Unheard of !. But Prabha Devi cheerfully and joyfully took on the complete responsibility of running the entire household - gathering grass, grazing the cattle, milking the cows, cooking, etc., The women folk would go together to gather grass for their cattle; but one day she realized that the day was near when there would be no grass left. Of course, the other women didn’t even think about it leave alone trying to do something. This is when she stepped in to take on more responsibility…planting saplings so that at least there would be enough fodder for the cattle…This became a habit and soon turned into a hobby that she loves even today.

Prabha Devi Planting Saplings

What was happening to the forest?

What baffled this young teen was the forest being mercilessly chopped all for the sake of fulfilling the needs of the selfish man – who wanted to build apartments and resorts. She couldn’t let this haunt her every night and started planting saplings on the uncultivated piece of land they owned. This further extended to wherever she saw barren land. Not only did she plant saplings but tended to them with loving care and watched them grow into gigantic trees which after decades have resulted into a dense forest. She has planted over 500 varieties which include fruit trees, pines, conifers, rhododendron, Rudraksha, and flowers as well. This has now provided a safe abode for the birds, animals, and reptiles.

Ma has such deep knowledge about the soil and water levels that it hard to comprehend. She also knew that the lowering of underground water levels could be a serious concern and had a ready solution for it. Trees like Baanj if planted in the region would help in uplifting the water levels and also provide enough fodder.

What keeps her going…

Simply her love for the nature and the satisfaction of leaving a better environment for the generations to come. Her 45YO son says Manish –“Not a day goes by without his Ma going into the forest and not a day is she willing to spend in a city”.

She is the happiest when she is in the forest experiencing the serene beauty, the calmness, sounds of the swaying trees, beautiful singing of the birds, the animals, and the crawlies. She connects with her plants and trees in her own way, by touching and hugging and talking. Helping the community --they have an access to not only enjoy the beauty of the forest but to take home plenty of firewood, fodder, fruits, etc., What more does one want out of life? Life’s purpose is to give and be useful to others says “Friend of Forest” as she is fondly known.

Just plant one sapling..that’s enough..

Ma continues doing what she is best at. She lives with her husband and loves spending time with her children and grandchildren whenever they visit her. Though she has no clue about the climate change but one thing she is sure about – this is the only way to go forward and save our planet. Through her life, she hopes the youngsters get inspired to follow in her footsteps.  

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