Dr. Purnima Devi Barman: Founder of the Hargila Army

Dr. Purnima Devi Barman: Founder of the Hargila Army

This Indian received the UN’s highest environmental honor. She founded the Hargila Army of 10,000 women, dedicated to bird rescue and conservation. This is the story of Purnima Devi Barman, a wildlife conservationist, who is on a mission to make people understand the value of the bird as a natural scavenger and strongly believes that one doesn’t need a degree to become a conservationist.

As a child, Purnima Devi Barman grew up by the Brahmaputra river, learning from nature with her grandmother. They enjoyed singing traditional songs about local birds, and her favorite bird, the stork, held a special place in her heart.

Purnima Devi Barman’s love for nature began with her grandmother and college professors. After getting her Master’s degree in Zoology, she joined a wildlife NGO called Aaranyak. However, her parents wanted her to get married and were unsure about her pursuing a career as a conservationist.

Luckily, her husband supported her. After having two daughters, she returned to academia for her Ph.D. but was drawn back to the field when a distress call came from a village. 

A villager had cut down a tree with a stork nest, leaving baby birds in danger. This incident made Purnima realize that her true calling was conservation, not just academic achievements. She chose to leave her academic career and actively work in the field to protect endangered species and change people’s attitudes toward the environment.

This made her realize that while a Ph.D. might advance her career, it will not fulfill the true purpose of her life–conserving the environment.

As a well-educated woman struggling to be heard, Purnima understood the difficulties faced by rural women. She decided to bring them together, helping them see their roles in society and the environment. 

This led to the creation of the Hargila Army. With the help of village communities, they planted about 45,000 new plants near stork nesting areas and wetlands where the endangered birds lay eggs. They also regularly cleaned up riverbanks and wetlands to keep the environment clean.

The Hargila Army has helped the village communities to plant almost 45,000 saplings near stork-nesting trees and wetland areas where the endangered birds lay eggs. They also regularly organize cleaning drives on the banks of rivers and in wetlands to reduce pollution.

What do you think about other conservation methods of protecting these birds? Let us know in the comment below.

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