Alok K N Mishra
RANCHI: Tribals living in remote forests of Jharkhand have resolved to throw out the timber mafia from the forests. Their efforts have resulted in an economic boom for them apart from conservation of the environment in their respective areas.
A group of Munda tribals have formed a 30-member committee -- Jangal Bachao Samiti (JBS) -- in Murhu block of Khunti district, located about 60 kms from here.
The primary job of the committee, which has 15 women members, is to chase anyone who damages trees at Kotna village. Mainly saal, kendu and other useful trees are found in the area.
"Thanks to our vigilantism no one dares to harm the forests in our village," said Paulus Purty, JBS chief of the village. The JBS has so far nabbed over 50 people and handed them punishment in the past few years.
Today, no body at Kotna village cuts trees. If anyone is found cutting trees the person is socially boycotted and also slapped with a fine. The punishment is meted out to the offender in the weekly court that the villagers hold religiously on Thursday. The village has no farmland and the inhabitants are primarily dependent on forest produce for survival. The village, which is spread on 80 acre of land, is covered by forest.
JBS members at Kotna village are aware of climate change and degrading environment thanks to the Society for Participatory Action and Reflection (SPAR), a regional NGO.
"Good and thick forests help them earn money. If the forest is healthy so is the produce. The tribals sell these forest produce in Khuti town," said SPAR project in-charge in Ranchi Vinod Horo.
In the past few years the forest has got thicker in the area. It has purified the environment somewhat and life is beautiful here, he added.
A similar indirect environment conservation is going on at Bari village located near Kotna village. The village has some hilly farmland but they are not enough to support the life of villagers. That is why the villagers are dependent on forest produce only.
Led by JBS chairman Mado Munda, the 28-member group has been successful in working as a deterrent for forest destruction. It has checked tree felling at the village which is spread over 78 acres of land entirely covered by forests.
Forest department figures suggest that a total of 10,903 forest committees have been constituted by the department across the state till now. "The aim behind the programme is to involve locals in the conservation and management of forests," said an official.
Various NGOs have also helped such vigilantism. "We have mobilized over 1,000 gram sabhas, and a similar number of Van Adkikar Samiti Samittis," said Xavier Kujur of Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Anandolan, an NGO that works for development of forests.
[Courtesy: TOI, June 6, 2012]