A campaign to turn Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district greener has received an overwhelming response from people belonging to all walks of life.(Sourced)
A campaign to turn Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district greener has received an overwhelming response from people belonging to all walks of life.(Sourced)

‘Bastar Abhar’: Former journalist’s mission to make district greener

Bastar’s forest cover has consistently decreased because of persistent felling of trees through the years.
By S Kareemuddin and Ritesh Mishra | Hindustan Times, Bastar
UPDATED ON AUG 24, 2020 03:22 PM IST

Hemant Kashyap, 61, former journalist, is on mission mode to turn his native Bastar district in Chhattisgarh greener. This is his payback time to the district after working for a vernacular newspaper for decades.

On the occasion of the 74th Independence Day on August 15, he started a campaign called “Bastar Abhar” in Bilori village. The idea was to encourage the villagers to plant saplings in the name of each family member registered in the ration card.

“I have started this campaign from village Bilori and more than 1,200 saplings have been planted so far. My aim is to cover each and every village of Bastar district in the next one year,” Kashyap said.

The total population of Bilori gram panchayat is 2,561 and ration cardholders are 683. While the district’s total population is 8,34,375, around 6,98,864 of them are still living in villages.

Also read: Chhattisgarh CM writes to centre, seeks funds for bridges

“I have been flooded with calls following the success of the campaign at Bilori village. They have been calling me to start the campaign in their villages. I am calling this campaign Bastar Abhar. The state government is offering several benefits to those who live in rural areas. Planting a sapling is acknowledging doing our bit for the environment and society. The concept is to make the Bastar district and villagers realise that trees are life,” said Kashyap, who is also a member of Chhattisgarh Wildlife Board.

Bastar Abhar has received an overwhelming response from people belonging to all walks of life. Help is at hand for Kashyap - from sarpanchs to state forest officials.

“I have never seen villagers so motivated towards planting saplings. Everyone is planting a sapling and also taking a pledge to protect it,” said Umman Baghel, a sarpanch of Bilori village.

Kashyap has done his preliminary homework of mapping the district’s demographic profile.

“Our district has 414 ration shops, of which 366 are located in rural areas. A total of 1,63,868 people have ration cards. If they plant fruit-bearing saplings in their villages, the initiative will not only increase their income but will also make our district greener,” he said

Bastar’s forest cover has consistently decreased because of persistent felling of trees through the years.

“The state government is giving pattas (rights) on forest land due to which logging is rampant in tribal-dominated districts. The government does engage in afforestation drives but those are few and far between as compared to logging activities. Besides, they rarely plant fruit-bearing saplings,” said the former journalist.

Somaru, a resident of Bastar district, said that the Bastar Abhar campaign would empower the tribals in the district.

“The initiative will give us additional income, as most of the saplings being planted belong to the fruit-bearing category. Also, our dependence on the jungle for fruits will come down,” said Baghel.

Shahid Khan, chief conservator of forests (CCF), Chhattisgarh, said the forest department is supporting the Abhar campaign.

“Awareness will be created among the public in a bid to ensure that every ration card holder plants a sapling in his village and also takes responsibility to protect it. It is a commendable initiative and the demand for saplings will be met from the nursery run under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, (MGNREGA), 2005. The district can become green if Bastar Abhar succeeds,” said Khan.

Indrajit, chief executive officer (CEO), Zila Panchayat, said Bastar Abhar would be launched at every gram panchayat of the district.

“Bastar Abhar will help villagers to develop an emotional relationship with trees that will make the district greener. We will provide all support to the campaign,” he added.

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