In 1974, 18-year-old Himmataram Bhambhu spent his days intently observing his grandmother planting a Peepal tree in his ancestral village, Sukhwasi in Rajasthan. About 14 years later, he had reached full maturity. When Himmataram saw how this tree provided shade and oxygen to the inhabitants of the village, he had found the purpose of his life.
Now, some 30 years later, as thousands of thriving trees and ecosystems in Nagaur District stand tall and firm thanks to his efforts, Himmataram stood before Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to receive the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honor, November 8.
He received this honor for his efforts to provide safe habitat for birds and wildlife by planting more than three lakh trees in his district. For his selfless efforts, he even took out a loan in 1999 to buy 34 bighas of land in his drought-prone village of Harima, so he could build a mini forest of 16,000 native trees.
In a state where poaching activities are crawling, and where the illegal smuggling of peacocks, blackbucks, chinkaras and other animals is a livelihood for many, Himmataram has been at the forefront of eliminating the problem in his district.
In a conversation with The Better India, he recalled, “I learned farming and tree planting for the first time from my grandmother Naini Devi, who always said that there is nothing more virtuous than planting trees. I felt like this was only possible thanks to my grandmother’s inspiration.
“I grew around 400 trees Khejri and native acacia in my six bighas at no additional cost. We have also kumt, neem, native plum, gunda, rohidha, khajuria and jalki. Although the cost of planting trees is not high, their maintenance is really difficult, ”said Himmataram, a farmer by profession.
Its selection of trees is also commendable. Considering that the arid state has always faced problems of water scarcity, he chose trees that depend on the rains.
In addition, the trees have also contributed immensely to maintaining the water table balance in Nagaur District, which has 45,000 borehole connections for agricultural purposes. Himmataram says that in a scenario where farmers turn a blind eye to the excessive use of machinery to draw water, trees have silently harvested rainwater for decades.
Himmataram also led the legal fight against poachers. He helped put 16 poachers behind bars in 28 cases. He uses his own savings to fight cases and also takes care of injured chinkaras and peacocks.
For saving the lives of more than 1,570 injured animals and birds, he has received state awards such as Rajiv Gandhi Environment Protection. A book was also published on him, titled “Himmat Ke Dhani Himmataram”, which was published by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar in Parliament.
Featured Image Source: President of India /Twitter
Edited by Divya Sethu