Ringui boost to afforestation objectives
TO be honest, decision taken by the villagers of Ringui in Ukhrul district to designate specific forest areas as conservation sites as well as to ban use of toxic chemicals for agricultural purpose would be more effective in maintaining ecological balance than the declaration by forests and environment minister Th Shyamkumar that the forest department will focus on successful growth of the tree saplings planted on the occasion of ‘Van Mahotsav’ on July 7. Though the minister’s assertion to check and protect newly planted tree saplings is appreciable such comments were also made by his predecessors but with little impact at the ground level. In case Shyamkumar keeps his words and follows up with a policy that could guarantee maturity of over 1 lakh tree saplings, which have reportedly been planted during the recent national event on conservation of forests, in addition to successfully carrying out the department’s objective to plant 10 lakh more tree saplings in the month of July, than such initiatives are bound to replenish the forest cover significantly. As mere announcement of government policy would not suffice in achieving the herculean task of reversing the trend of devastation/disturbance being caused to the forests and environment, the minister need to acknowledge resolution adopted by the Ukhrul villagers and involve them in the forest and environment conservation programme, for the simple reason that it is local populace who could effectively check random felling of trees and unrestrained exploitation of forest products.
The rapid depletion of the forest cover, notwithstanding observance of Van Mahotsav events for the past many years testify that planting thousands of tree saplings every year is yet to serve its real purpose of protecting the environment at the ground level. On the other-hand, Ringui villagers realising the potential threat posed to the local ecology, its forest and water resources due to reckless deforestation and indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals and eventually committing themselves to take up conservation efforts will help the cause of the government in protecting the natural resources. As those residing in the hills have been facing the wrath of natural calamities, landslides in particular, the government should not delay in joining hands with the village chiefs and all responsible citizens for successful implementation of forest conservation programmes. An equally impressive development of the consultation programme at Ringui village was that of two village chiefs offering to donate arable lands to be designated as 'conservation sites'. As the conventional practice of stationing forest guards at protected forest areas or check posts has not been yielding the desired result, the government should not ignore the option of involving the villagers in all efforts for conservation of forests. Considering the fact that many people in the hills depend on the forest resources, including the environmentally harmful jhum cultivation, for sustenance, providing them financial or technical support in finding alternative sources of livelihood such as plantation of horticultural crops, will encourage en-masse participation of the local populace in the campaign for protecting the environment.