Intro:Lalmani Harijan and his wife Ghasena have been taking care of a forest spreading over 50 acres in Nuapada district for the last 28 years without any government assistance
A green environment not just reduces air pollution and atmospheric toxins that could affect our body’s immune system, it also helps sustain natural resources for current and future generations. Besides, an eco-friendly ambience has a good impact on people’s body and mind when anxiety sets in as an impact of pandemic-induced lockdown. Therefore, it is high time more people came forward to do their bit to turn the planet green for all. This is exactly what some people are doing at the moment and a few of them share their experience with Sunday POST.
Meet Archana Gomago, a young forest range officer under Panchirida range of ( Goccha reserve forest ) Sarankul in Nayagarh district. She is quite popular among the Internet users for her dare devil night patrolling inside the deep forest which was a happy hunting ground for elephant poachers and timber mafia till Archana’s joining the range. She has so far produced at least 50 such offenders in the court. She is also involved in conservation of elephants and house sparrows in Nayagarh.
She says, “Not too many women forest officials would dare to roam around inside the dark forest in midnight with just a handful of co-workers to check jumbo killing and smuggling of valuable timber. This may be a reason behind my popularity in the social media. But I consider it as part of my duty which I am doing to the best of my ability. There was a perception that reserve forest area is the paradise for the poachers and timber mafia and I wanted to change that. I feel proud that I have played a role along with some of colleagues to curb illegal activities inside the forest. I have just started my journey and I am hopeful that things will change in other reserve forests also.”
Sonali Sio, posted under Gania forest range in Nayagarh, is another daring forest range officer. She is also an environment lover who works for wildlife conservation. She patrols the forest every night to keep the woods free of poachers and timber mafia.
“I had arrested three poachers with arms and forwarded them to the court. Since then no poaching case has been registered under our forest jurisdiction. This apart, I am a wildlife lover which is why I make an extra effort during patrolling to prevent poaching incidents. Tuskers often come to eat bamboo and drink water. Therefore, I make sure to protect them,” says Sonali who has also been felicitated by Nayagarh forest division for her soil conservation work.
Asked about these two dare devil forest officers, Nayagarh Divisional Forest Officer Dhanraj .H.D says, “Both these female forest rangers are working relentlessly to keep the forest and its inhabitants safe. It feels so good to see them doing night patrolling fearlessly and putting culprits behind the bars.”
Biranchi Narayan Baral and his wife Peetinanda Baral, inhabitants of Mahanadivihar in Cuttack are two other changemakers who have converted a barren patch of 10 acres at Mainsiagotha of Barchana block in Jajpur district to a certified organic farm. The couple decided to start farming after Biranchi’s uncle died of cancer.
He says, “I had seen several organic stores near Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai when I went there for uncle’s treatment. Then I thought of staring organic farming as one of the main reasons of people suffering from cancer is the use of pesticides in farming. I started my farm Samarpana July 27, 2016. Today I am distributing thousands of saplings free of cost among the locals and people from other regions.”
Making an unproductive patch green is always a daunting task. No wonder, many of Biranchi’s friends and relatives discouraged him not to invest time and money in such a loss-making project. However, he was determined to prove them wrong. Armed with strong will power and after rounds of soil testing he managed to develop one of the best organic farms in the state. Now, the students of horticulture, farmers and many SHG groups regularly visit Biranchi’s farm to learn traditional farming techniques.
“Making money has never been my priority. I have always wanted to tell that the secret behind healthy living lies in organic farming. I am happy that many people are coming forward to take up traditional methods of cultivation,” concludes Biranchi.
Looking after a forest spreading over 50 acres for decades is never an easy task. However, Lalmani Harijan and his wife Ghasena have been doing this, which looks improbable for many, for the last 28 years at Sunarisiskuan of Khariar block in Nuapada district.
Speaking about his bonding with the jungle Lalmani says, “I used to roam around aimlessly in forest when ranger spotted me and asked me to look after it. This incident dates back to 1992. After that I treated the forest as a child and took the responsibility to parent it. I decided to look after the jungle and protect it from being plundered by the timber mafia.”
The 65-year-old has so far planted more than 40 thousand of trees of many species like teak, karada, dhoura and several other medicinal saplings. Lalmani’s family including his son Krushna and wife makes sure to reach the forest every day by 5 am. They take care of the old trees and plant new ones in vacant places by working around 14 hours a day. He has recently been appointed as a supervisor by the forest department under assisted natural regeneration (ANR) project. His love for the trees is such he knows every tree by its names and when it was planted.
Acknowledging Lalmani’s contribution in conservation of trees, forest guard Rohitaswa Rout says, “His is an heroic effort in taking care of the forest. Unfortunately, he has not got a fitting reward from the government.”
On this Lalmani says, “ The Mother Nature is the greatest reward to mankind. Therefore, I have no regret for what I have been doing for years.”
I live within the jungle and jungle lives within me, adds the green warriors.
Chaitali Shome, OP