Nature has always been a part of Basanti Devi’s life, who grew up in a village of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh. The villagers, including herself, have always depended on the Kosi River to meet their daily water needs.
Basanti, who couldn’t pursue her studies after class 4, was married off at the age of 12. Unfortunately, her husband passed away after two years and she was sent to Lakshmi Ashram in Kausani, Uttarakhand.
Interested in continuing studies, Basanti completed her schooling at the ashram. While reading a newspaper article in 2003, she realised that the Kosi River was in danger due to increased deforestation. She felt the urge to work towards saving the river and nearby forests.
So, Basanti started visiting the nearby villages to convince the women to join her mission. In a span of 20 years, hundreds of women from 200 villages united to protect the trees, plant more of them, and thereby save the river.
Through the collective effort of the communities formed in each village, eventually, the forests were revived and streams became perennial. The movement named ‘Save Kosi Movement’ continues even today.
“The result was getting surplus water in the almost dry areas of the Kosi region. Some old springs have also been revived, and so, the villagers of the Someshwar area have started sowing seeds to grow paddy crops,” said Basanti to The Print.
For her contribution to the environment, 64-year-old Basanti was presented with the Nari Shakti Puraskaar in 2016 and the Padma Shri in 2022.
Watch the journey of this environmentalist:
Edited by Pranita Bhat