People’s Participation in Conservation of Forests
People’s participation is vital in forest conservation, especially those living in them or close to the forest. This is referred to as Community forestry, which varies widely in legal, political and cultural settings and the term covers a wide range of experiences and practices.
The Bishnois, who are known conservators of their forest, were inspiration to many people’s participatory movements for Environmental protection in India. The Chipko movement resisted the destruction of forests of India in the 1970s. Sunderlal Bahuguna was the leader of this movement. People in the movement hugged the trees, and prevented felling of trees by contractors.
The ‘Forest man of India’, Jadav Payeng who created 1,360 acres of dense and defiant forest was born in Arunasapori (a river island on the Brahmaputra). He had just completed his Class X exams in1979 when he started to sow the seeds and shoots on the eroded island covered with sand and silt. Thirty-six years later he had converted the once unproductive land into a forest. Payeng’s forest is now home to five Royal Bengal tigers, over a hundred deer, wild boar, vultures, and several species of birds. For his remarkable initiative, the Jawaharlal Nehru University invited Payeng in 2012 on Earth Day and honoured him with the title of the ‘Forest Man of India’. Later, the President APJ Abdul Kalam felicitated him with a cash award in Mumbai. The same year, he received the ‘Padma Shri’.
The Indian Constitution also stresses on the importance of the role of the People in protecting their environment.
Amrita Devi was a brave lady from Khejarli Village of Jodhpur District, Rajasthan. She sacrificed her life to maintain Bishnoi Dharma. In 1730, Maharaja Abhay Singh, ruler of Marwar, Rajasthan state wanted to log green Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) trees to burn lime for the construction of his new palace. Since there was a lot of greenery in the Bishnoi villages even in the middle of Thar Desert, the king ordered his men to get the wood from Khejri trees. When she came to know about the cutting of trees by the King’s men, she and many others had hugged the Khejri trees to save from cutting. But king’s men killed Amrita Devi along with more than 363 other Bishnois. It was a Tuesday, black Tuesday in Khejarli. This incident took place to save trees and is recorded in India’s history.
To commemorate her bravery, the Government of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have initiated the prestigious state level award named as ‘Amrita Devi Bishnoi Smriti Award’ for excellent contribution to the protection and conservation of wildlife.
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