Amid government push to increase the dwindling green cover in the country, Bihar's Harpur Bochaha village is standout example of how community participation can change things for the better.
Once devastated by recurring floods and drought, the village in Samastipur district, is today recognised nationally for its rising green expanse. So much that it was given the 'Panchayat Empowerment award' as an appreciation for its reforestation efforts.
Prem Shankar Singh, head of the village Panchayat, is the man responsible for leading this transformation. "Our village had been losing its trees very fast during to recurring floods and drought. When I first became the Panchayat head in 2001, there were a few trees left here. It was worse for the farmers who found it hard to cultivate as the village turned into a waste land," Mr Singh said.
Three large ponds were dug to supply water to 3,000 acres of land. Next a 3 km-long canal was constructed to get water to the fields.
The efforts bore fruit and the land gradually revived. Harpur Bochaha today boasts of over 17,000 trees, most fruit-bearing, and dozens of ponds and has been shortlisted for the 'National Green Panchayat' award. In fact, every single village under the Panchayat has dozens of ponds.
While the fruit trees provide the villagers an extra income, fish and poultry farming has also been initiated on 10 acres of waste land to supplement it.
Mr Singh said the village's income per person has increased from Rs 552 to Rs 1,664 now. He also claimed that literacy among the village's 11,500 population has risen from 46 per cent in 2001 to 65 per cent.
"The government cannot do everything. Public participation is essential for development. This Panchayat is proof that milestones can be achieved by taking the first step. The village has proved that nothing is impossible when people work together," said Ganga Sagar Singh, Block Development Officer of Vidyapati Nagar under which Harpur Bochaha village falls.