Arun Prasad, Uttarakhand
Founder of Devalsari Samiti, community conservation and biodiversity protection
A 29-year-old man from the Bangsil village, Tehri Garhwal District, Uttarakhand, Arun Prasad is the messiah of sustainable eco-tourism in his Himalayan village. His nascent years were spent learning about nature and the environment around his home, and he trained as a beekeeper at Khadi Gram Udyog from the young age of 8 until he was 16, even winning a national science project award for bee-keeping during his school days. Completing a B.Sc from Garhwal University in 2015, he watched in dismay as his classmates left their beautiful hometown in search of menial jobs in the city. As a solution to this problem of migration from mountains to city, he set up the Devalsari Paryavaran Sanrakshan Awam Tekniki Vikas Samiti in 2014. As Director of the Devalsari Samiti, over the last five years, Arun has passionately worked to instill a pride of place in his community members. He initiated a sustainable livelihood and conservation program, and through the Samiti has propagated nature-linked ecotourism, combining birdwatching, butterfly watching, nature trails, trekking, local cuisine and local heritage. As an ode to his beekeeping roots, Arun has also trained hundreds of farmers in Uttarakhand in bee-keeping techniques, providing an additional income source to many.
Arun’s hard work goes beyond the boundaries of his village - he works at the forefront of nature conservation action throughout the entire Devalsari landscape, from protecting local forest habitats, fighting illegal poaching, combating forest fires by assisting the Forest Department, and changing local attitudes towards nature conservation. His leadership skills, his passion for conservation, and his drive for excellence is proving to be a convincing role model for youth in the state.