3. Regenerating and protecting forests in Orissa


Rejuvenated forests at Kesarpur

Subrat Kumar Sahu writes:

Communities throughout Orissa have been regenerating and protecting their forests since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, around 17,000 village forest protection committees in roughly 19,000 villages protect 2 million hectares of forests. That means that over a third of Orissa’s total forest area is now under community control even though ‘legally’ it is state property . . .

Shramik Jogi recollects how, before Independence, the village was surrounded by thick, beautiful green trees that harboured a variety of wildlife species. However, between 1950 and 1970 — when the government leased out vast stretches of forest land throughout the state to contractors for commercial exploitation — the forests were completely destroyed. “Even the roots were not spared,” he says. “A sort of demonic darkness descended on the people here. Due to soil erosion, fertile lands were filled up and ruined; we even feared that the village would be buried in soil one day. There was an acute shortage of fuelwood; cattle did not find land to graze; perennial streams and village wells dried up; the rains were irregular; the rich wildlife disappeared.”

. . . Shramik Jogi had just joined, in 1966, as headmaster of the local Middle English School. He and Udaynath Khatei took it upon themselves to “bring the dead earth back to life” along with his students and fellow villagers. They set up a village forest protection committee (FPC) and started with Malati hill, which had not a single tree left on it. “Our first job was, of course, to plant trees. We would sit on the roadside and touch the feet of every passerby, urging them to plant a tree each. And they happily planted as many saplings as there were family members, one for each member. Within four years, all 13 villages in and around the erstwhile forest joined in the campaign. Like bees collect nectar from each flower they come in contact with, we took advice and wisdom from each and all. It was such a collective effort, and it still is.” 

People in other states could also regenerate, manage, protect and use the forests

Read more here:http://www.ielrc.org/content/e9305.pdf


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