Prosper S. Marak
Courtesy: Samrakshan Trust.
Month Year: December 2009
YOUNG NATURALIST Award
Prosper is remarkably young and despite not being formally trained, his knowledge and passion for India’s wildlife has won him the reputation of a giant-killer with many hard-fought conservation battles under his belt. At 24 he is the President of the Southern Zone of the Garo Students’ Union, the apex body of Garo Youth. With his young compatriots he has taken on the mining mafia that dominates much of the northeastern state of Meghalaya. Having grown up just outside the elephant forests of the Balpakram National Park and the Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, he fell in love with nature and learned to respect it from childhood.
The southern boundary of the Balpakram National Park is rich in coal and in 2008, the depressing sight of bulldozers mowing down large tracts of forest land angered Prosper, so he organised a group of young activists to petition the state government against the miners. They met with apathy and aggression from the authorities. In 2009, their patience exhausted, Prosper’s young green warriors seized a bulldozer used by the miners and handed it over to the police. Predictably, protracted legal battles ensued, but in the meanwhile the young men and women cleared the debris and began to reforest the area. Then they took to patrolling the restored lands to ensure that bully boys hired by the miners did not return to destroy what had been resurrected. In time, the work of these future citizens began to influence other young persons across the state and an organisation emerged, led by Prosper, called the Chitmang Hills Anti-Mining Forum. One of the major battles is the fight against exploratory mining for uranium in Balpakram. As a result of their pressure the state of Meghalaya has been forced to put together a mining policy, which is being closely critiqued and will have an impact far beyond Balpakram. When Prosper now asks for their attention, the local administration listens. He is a true green warrior, a voice for tomorrow.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXIX No. 6, December 2009.