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Meet to discuss van panchayat issues in Uttarakhand

With only 25% of 12, 089 van panchayats or village forest councils active in Uttarakhand, the forest department has decided to address grievances of the councils to ensure their 100 % participation in the wildlife conservation

dehradun Updated: Mar 18, 2018 19:22 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand News
The panchayats, if nurtured wisely, can become a strong base for the forest department in combating a number of issues, say experts.(HT File/Arun Sharma)

With only 25% of 12, 089 van panchayats or village forest councils active in Uttarakhand, the forest department has decided to address grievances of the councils to ensure their 100 % participation in the wildlife conservation.

The department has called a meeting on March 20, which will be attended by more than 30 panchayat heads. During the meeting, forest officials will listen to the problems of the van panchayats and work out solution to ensure their participation in the wildlife conservation.

“The meeting is necessary, as we have less than 25% panchayats that are functional. The objective is to activate the defunct panchayats,” said Jai Raj, head of the state forest force.

The panchayats are inactive due to a number of reasons, forest officials said.

While a few are struggling to get funds, others do not have unity and constitutions to operate, some of them said.

Defunct village forest councils have been demanding a part of fund from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), under the soil and water management schemes and met forest state minister Harak Singh Rawat in November.

The panchayats have also demanded 50% reservation for women in the village forest councils.

The van panchayats fall under the revenue department that holds the rights to conduct elections for the councils.

Former forest minister Dinesh Aggarwal had brought panchayats under one roof but since last one year, nothing has been done to achieve utility of these units that could become a huge force for the government to protect and conserve forests.

“The panchayats, if nurtured wisely, can become a strong base for the forest department in combating a number of issues,” said environment activist Dinesh Pandey.

“Water harvesting can check the spread of forest fires, protect wild animals and other tasks can be taken up by the village forest councils,” he said.

Many panchayats have taken backseat due to faulty administration.

Water conservationist Rajendra Singh during his visit to Uttarakhand last year, stressed on activating the panchayats and addressing their problems for strengthening forest cover.

“We have prepared a model in Asarodhi where due to water catchment and treatment efforts, the ground has retained its moisture and so there were hardly incidents of forest fire,” said environmentalist Anil Joshi, stressing on how panchayats can be a boon for the ecosystem.

First Published: Mar 18, 2018 19:21 IST