Tribal villagers guarding 100-acre forest for 40 years

Nayagarh: Tribals in many districts have taken up the responsibility of protecting forests which are their source of income and livelihood in the face of deforestation for urban and industrial development and the government’s failure to protect
green cover.
Earlier, Orissa POST had carried reports about the efforts of tribals of Nagajhar village under Sinapali block in Nuapada district who have dedicated 25 years of their life to protect a 600-acre forest near their village.
Similarly, locals of Gundarabari village under Ranpur block in Nayagarh district have been standing guard to a 100-acre ‘Chaunia’ forest for the last 40 years.
What’s praiseworthy is, the credit for the green initiative, worthy of emulating by others, goes to locals who tend thousands of trees as their own children. Once a barren land, the area now is a thick lush green forest with all kinds of valuable trees. Sal, timber, teak, mahogany, mahua and bamboo trees dot the forest.
Located just 20km away from Nayagarh, the village has about 80 families. They mostly depend on forest produce for a living. However, the fast depleting forest land has posed a threat to their livelihood and source of food and income.
That’s when the villagers had decided to save the forest. The villagers called a meeting where they decided to plant trees. Twenty-seven women were selected to plant saplings in the barren area. Later, the locals divided themselves into groups and stood guard to the plants in two shifts of day and night.
Even today, armed with lathis, four women guard the forest during day and four men at night. This practice has been going on for the last 40 years, a woman of the village Rama Beunra said.
The locals sell fallen trees and collect money and put it in a common fund which is used for marriages or during an emergency in the village.
Interestingly, the locals do not allow the forest department officials to enter the area. They accuse the forest officials of being in collusion with timber mafia. By any chance, timber mafia attack the guardians of forest, they alert the locals who rush to the spot and throw out the mafia.
The efforts of the locals have received praise as they are an example of community-based forest conservation. We are planning to extend our guard to other forests near our village, Rama added.

PNN

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