Eight-year-old environmentalist, Prasiddhi Singh has been appointed brand ambassador – Tamil Nadu, for the government of India’s ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ girl child literacy campaign. The Chengalpattu-based pre-teen has been in the limelight since 26 January this year when Prime Minister, Narendra Modi bestowed her with the ‘Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar’ award for planting 14,000 fruit trees and creating 14 mini fruit tree forests over two years (since 2018). Prasiddhi was the youngest of the 32 ‘under-18’ achievers who received the ‘Bal Puraskar’ award, recognising exceptional achievements across fields of innovation, scholastics, sports, arts and culture, bravery and social service. Passionate about keeping the planet green, the class three student of Mahindra World School, Chengalpattu, (ranked #1 in the EW School 20-21 Tamil Nadu state) has now made it her mission to plant one lakh trees by 2022.
The only child of Praveen and Stuti Singh, both employees at Mahindra Research Valley, Mahindra World City, Chengalpattu, the young nature lover was already participating in marathons alongside her parents supporting environmental causes since age two. However, it was the devastating loss of 15 lakh trees uprooted in Chennai and its suburbs by cyclone ‘Vardah’ on 12 December, 2016 that galvanized the four-year-old Prasiddhi to take on the role of an environmental activist seriously. Pained by the large-scale loss, she has spent every available weekend planting tree sapling across government schools, offices and public places using the Japanese Miyawaki forest system that allows creation of dense micro forests in urban areas.
Setting up ‘The Prasiddhi Forest Foundation’ (PFF) (estd 2018), a not-for-profit with the help of her grandfather, Prasiddhi has launched initiatives like bird feeding, community nursery via door-to-door seed, tea dust collection and distribution of free seeds, saplings and the ‘G3 Ecosystem’, a project close to her heart.
“While all the activities conducted by the foundation add value to the environment, I believe the following the ‘G3 Ecosystem’ that says, ‘generate your own oxygen’, ‘grow your own food’ and ‘gift the community’ can make a huge impact simply because it encourages each one of us to take responsibility for our environment and understand the value of the oxygen we breath, the food we eat and the community we live in. The programme follows a curriculum that has been curated by experts in the field of farming, environmental studies and sustainable living,” says the zealous environmentalist.
Displaying knowledgeable insights about biodiversity and its impact on animals and bird life, Prasiddhi has connected with 15000 individuals through her 20 plus global workshops and talks conducted at schools, colleges and corporates to create greater awareness. After the initial funding from her family, Prasiddhi has crowdfunded, conducted paid yoga workshops, sold handmade bookmarks, grow kits & seed balls at sustainable stalls and tied up with corporates like the Chennai-based Cholayil Pvt. Ltd. (makers of Medimix soaps), Mahindra Logistics and the Rotary club to finance her plantation drives.
While the Rs one lakh prize money received as part of her Bal Puraskar award has already been set aside for her various projects, the award has helped to create greater awareness about her work. Her foundation will soon partner with schools, colleges and corporates to launch the ‘Happy Living through sustainable solution’. While PPF is already working on several of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, Prasiddhi wants to address all the 17 goals in the long run.
Prasiddhi’s infectious enthusiasm has earned her an army 10,000 volunteers who have pledged to carry on her good work and the popular pre-teen has had the unique distinction of having a nursery and a Prasiddhi forest (of 100 trees) planted in her school premises as a birthday gift (31 October) last year. Among other accolades bestowed on her, the India Book of Records listed her as the youngest fruit forest creator in the country in August 2020.
Prasiddhi who is a voracious reader, has no trouble managing her academics alongside her passion for the environment. Listing Peter Wohlleben’s ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ as one of her favourites, the spunky youngster believes, it is the adults’ lack of imagination that makes them a little ignorant as compared to children. However, she does have a prescription for the malady. “Talk to the trees, hug them and spend time with nature to get good health as well as inspiration as nature always has something to offer us. We must dream higher than the skies and think deeper than the oceans,” says the youngster with a green thumb.
Also read: If not now, when? Five reasons to study environment & sustainabilityNews, Young Achiever