91-year-old Kunwar Damodar Rathore, the ‘Green Soldier’ who planted about eight crore saplings during his lifetime, breathed his last in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand on Wednesday.
In his final days, Rathore suffered major respiratory problems but that didn’t stop him from showing concern for his close friends – the saplings.
On his deathbed, his only worry was, “What will happen to the saplings I have planted? Who will take care of them?” reports Times of India.
The locals of Rathore’s village said that he even distributed 4,000 saplings to the children who paid him a visit in the hospital, just three days before his death.
In the 1960s, Rathore embarked on a mission to plant saplings in and around Bhanora, his native village in Didihat tehsil of Uttarakhand. He used to carry a bag which contained a small spade and some saplings.
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During his lifetime, Rathore planted about eight crore saplings of over 160 species. He even formed the Himalayan Green Brigade, an organisation whose volunteers planted thousands of trees in Pithoragarh.
In 2000, Rathore was awarded with the Indira Priyadarshini Vriksh Mitra Award for planting one crore saplings. He even planted saplings in the plains of Dehradun, Haridwar and Kashipur.
“His death is a great loss to the environment. He worked tirelessly for development of biodiversity and its preservation. He distributed lakhs of saplings every year and planted oak seeds on barren lands, which he nurtured for years to come,” said B D Kansiyal, a senior journalist and also Rathore’s close friend in an interview to Times of India.
Today, the plains of Bhanora and Pithoragarh have a lush green cover with different varieties of trees which not only serve as fodder but also retain moisture and prevent landslides. Thanks to the battle against deforestation waged by India’s very own ‘Green Soldier’.