The fourth day of Navratri is dedicated to the worship of Maa Kushmanda. Maa Kushmanda is believed to be the creative power of the universe. She is associated with the endowment of vegetation on earth. On this day, let us celebrate the contribution of five women who have played a significant role in environment and biodiversity conservation. These remarkable individuals have dedicated their lives to safeguarding our planet and the precious resources it offers.
Tulsi Gowda is more popularly known as “Encyclopedia of Forest” for her vast knowledge about various trees and plants. She has singlehandedly planted one lakh trees in Karnataka.
Gowda, born in a poor tribal family, started her journey in the 60s by planting one sapling after another. She is 79 years old today but when people way younger than her fail to do anything to arrest the effects of climate change, she is still as busy as she was six decades ago. Every year she plants and nurtures thousands of trees. Her aim in life is to inspire the young generation to care for our forests. Recognising her contribution to the planet, on 26th January 2020, the Government of India conferred Tulasi Gowda with the prestigious Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India on India’s 71st Republic Day.
Sunita Narain is an environmentalist and a political activist. She is also a major proponent of the Green concept of sustainable development. Narain is director-general of the research institute the Centre for Science and Environment and Society for Environmental Communications. She also serves as an editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth.
Narain began her work in the 1980s along with another prominent environmentalist – Anil Agarwal, and co-edited State of India’s environment report. After the loss of tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Sunita chaired the Tiger Task Force for conservation in 2005.
She is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Climate Change and the National Ganga River Basin Authority. Sunita has also been awarded the Padma Shri for her contribution towards environmental research and conservation.
Vandana Shiva is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, an independent research organisation that researches ecological and social issues. She is an eco-rights activist whose campaign against genetically modified seeds and the protection of native seeds led to the formation of ‘Navdanya’. Navdanya is a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds.
Shiva has helped set up 122 community seed banks and trained farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty, and sustainable agriculture. She is a fierce opponent of globalisation and is the face of the anti-GMO movement across the world. She was also recognised by TIME as environmental heroin in 2003. Also, she received the Right Livelihood Award in 1993 and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.
Bee Rani, whose real name is Saalumarada Thimmakka, is an extraordinary environmentalist from the southern state of Karnataka, India. She is often referred to as the “Mother of Trees” for her exceptional commitment to afforestation. Despite hailing from a humble background, Bee Rani and her husband, Chikkaiah, planted and nurtured nearly 400 banyan trees along a four-kilometre stretch of highway over several decades.
Her act of planting and caring for these trees, which are now known as the “Thimmakka Trees,” not only transformed the arid landscape into a green oasis but also attracted worldwide attention. Bee Rani’s story serves as an inspiration for people globally to recognise the power of individual efforts in making a significant impact on the environment.
Dia Mirza is a renowned model, filmmaker, actress and activist. As an activist, Mirza has contributed her efforts in the field of social change, conservation and environment. She has been the face of many pivotal environmental campaigns across India including the use of biodegradable sanitary pads, and eco-friendly detergents among others. She has also worked towards the conservation of wildlife. Mirza is currently serving as a Goodwill Ambassador with the United Nations Environment to further spread the message on priority areas including clean air, clean seas, wildlife protection and climate change.