Frequently Visited Section

(Use our search bar below if you do not find what you are looking for)

“Reviving Barshu: Vijay Semwal’s Tale of Victory in the Indian Himalayas”

Introduction: As a field researcher in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), my passion has always been to explore the diverse landscapes and communities living in these challenging environments. Recently, a unique opportunity arose with the initiation of a Climate-Smart Village project supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) at our institute. Our journey led us to Barshu village in Rudraprayag district, a remarkable example of revival in the Indian Himalayas. In this blog, I will share the inspiring success story of Mr. Vijay Semwal (Bijji), the man behind the transformation of Barshu.

Ghost Villages of Uttarakhand: At the turn of the millennium, the state of Uttarakhand was created with the hope of uplifting the hillside inhabitants. However, over the years, it became clear that the dream had not fully materialized. Out-migration, induced by certain policies, became a major factor. This phenomenon had severe consequences, leading to the emergence of “Ghost Villages,” with over 1700 villages in Uttarakhand lying abandoned. Barshu, a once-vibrant village, fell victim to this trend due to a lack of development opportunities.

Me (to the Left) and Shri Vijay Semwal (to the right)

Vijay Semwal’s Heroic Return: Amidst the depopulation of hillside communities, there are individuals like Mr. Vijay Semwal who strive to revive mountain culture. Vijay, a native of Barshu who had left the village in his youth, returned after many years. He recognized the potential for self-sustained livelihoods in the rich ecology of the region.

In 2015, Vijay embarked on a transformative journey by developing an integrated model for cultivating pulses and vegetables, focusing on fresh and organic produce.Reviving Barshu’s Agriculture: Vijay’s efforts centered on cultivating local and commercial vegetables such as garlic, onion, bottle gourd, ladyfinger, and spinach. He also planted numerous trees each year, domesticated cows, and ran a poultry farm to generate income. His hard work not only provided livelihoods for many youths in the region but also inspired villagers who had left their homes to return and renovate their properties. Vijay’s model gained recognition and support from various stakeholders and government departments, making it a potential framework for tackling migration in other regions.

Greening the Region: Vijay’s commitment to environmental conservation was evident through his annual planting of 100 trees, including Malta, pomegranate, lemon, and banana. This initiative significantly enhanced the region’s green cover. He even planned to introduce high-value fruits like apples. Vijay also cultivated local pulses like gehad and urhad, aligning agriculture with local needs.

Caring for Cattle: Vijay’s compassion extended to abandoned cattle, as he domesticated 14 of them and established the “Barshu Gowseva Samiti” to provide shelter and care. These cattle not only produced dairy products but also valuable manure for farming.

Bringing Back Tradition: Vijay’s efforts brought back the age-old practice of paddy transplantation to Barshu after four decades, improving irrigation and water supply to the village. His inspirational work even motivated an ex-army man from the village to develop a similar model.


Vijay Semwal, a courageous hero, has created a resilient model for self-sustainability in the region. His dream is to rejuvenate his roots and work towards the holistic development of his native village. Barshu serves as an example of hope and inspiration, reminding us that with dedication and passion, we can revive even the most desolate of places.In closing, I extend my gratitude to my institute for giving me the opportunity to visit Barshu and document the motivating journey of an inspiring individual who warmly hosted us and shared his experiences.

Blog by -

Rishav Rawal


G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment