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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

How to save forests from fire in Uttarakhand

Fires are not unusual or new, but the scale and frequency is new, as is the trend of villagers watching these as if they are bystanders.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2019 22:13 IST
Bharati Chaturvedi
Bharati Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
It is unreasonable and impossible that the forest department keeps putting out forest fires. This challenge needs a different engagement with the locals.
It is unreasonable and impossible that the forest department keeps putting out forest fires. This challenge needs a different engagement with the locals. (AP)
         

Just 50 years ago, villagers refused to let contractors cut down their trees in a small village in Uttarakhand.

That became the Chipko movement.

Now, for the last few years, we see quite the opposite – the forests of Uttarakhand are burning, and there’s no one to douse them from the villagers.

Fires are not unusual or new, but the scale and frequency is new, as is the trend of villagers watching these as if they are bystanders.

What to do?

It is unreasonable and impossible that the forest department keeps putting out forest fires. This challenge needs a different engagement with the locals.

First of all, the locals have to once again, become custodians of these forests.

This means that van panchayats have to be further empowered and active, and villagers have to enjoy tangible goods to improve their lives from the forests.

This could be eco-tourism or access to minor forest produce.

Second, they must be rewarded and recognition for saving the forests from fires etc on one hand, while being encouraged not to cause or allow such fires if they are man-made.

Third, many villages are feminised, with women staying back and men in towns for jobs.

This should specifically be part of the rewards, such that women’s lives are easier.

For example, women should not have to travel nine hours with an excruciating toothache to seek medical help.

Instead, mobile medical clinics should be available. All this is part of saving our forests.

First Published: Jun 02, 2019 22:13 IST