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Monday, August 25, 2014

Chami Devi Murmu: Jharkhand’s ‘lady Tarzan’

Chami Devi Murmu, 42, is fondly called the ‘Lady Tarzan of Jharkhand’, not because she has befriended tigers in the Muturkham Chaura and Kadel Pahar jungles of Saraikela-Kharsawan district.
She is on a mission to protect the local wildlife by saving the forests that have been fast vanishing due to the havoc caused by the timber mafia and Naxal insurgency in the area.
A native of Barisai village in Jharkhand, it has taken Chami nearly 24 years to mobilise women from over 40 villages to plant sal, eucalyptus and Acacia trees, among others, to replenish the heavily depleted green cover. Chami’s eco-brigade of over 3,000 self-help group (SHG) women has planted more than a million trees and has also developed watersheds to help raise the ground water levels in the region.
“Trees are our lives. They fulfil our very real needs for firewood and food and so I thought why not I become the saviour of our lifesavers,” said a confident Chami, adding, “Our network of women is so strong that we immediately come to know where a tree is being chopped. Our organisation, the Sahyogi Mahila group, a cluster of various SHGs, now plants trees and also protects them.”
The Santhal woman said, “Jharkhand means ‘the land of forests’ and in our local language it also means ‘a piece of gold’. For me, our forests are gold and we need to preserve them.”
(Saadia Azim)

Article copied from Here

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ranaram Bishnoi- The 75 year Old who Stopped the March of the Desert

The Story first appeared in the Bangkok Post. (Jan 2014)
Ekalkhori village is about 100 kms from Jodhpur  but it takes us more than five hours  to get there.   The light is fading fast but in this Bishnoi territory in Rajasthan, the driver has to make innumerable halts as the chinkaras, the black bucks, the squirrels drift languorously on the highway.
We have in the back seat a volunteer of the Bishnoi Tiger Force– a wildlife vigilante group in Jodhpur district; a  menace of any poacher prowler in these part.  He gives us the  low-down on the daring animal rescues the force undertakes,  battling  gun wielding poachers in the dead of night.
He also fills us in  on the man from whom we are making this  backbreaking journey  across the arid Rajasthan plains. But there is nothing that prepares you  for the septuagenarian environment crusader.
Ranaram Bishnoi is a tall handsome man in his mid 70’s who takes his sobriquet of the ‘’tree man’’ rather seriously.

No sooner  we exchange greetings than he whisks us to the  desert  swathe where he’s planted over 27 thousand trees turning it green.  He has singlehandedly stopped the march of the desert, which left to itself would have   muzzled up the farmlands adjoining it and beyond.  The desert dunes now lie tamed and  anchored to the roots of Ranaram’s trees.  The indigenous trees he has planted are Neem, Rohida, Kankeri, Khejri, Fig, Bougainvillea and Babool.

Ranaram has been planting these trees for some years now,  drawing water  from a nearby well  and carrying it in an earthen pot on his shoulders to water the saplings.
The Bishnoi community to which Ranaram belongs is  the   forbearer of the Chipko movement, famous of its non-violent tree-hugging protest against tree felling. In 1730 , 363  Bishnoi men, women and children were killed by a local king’s soldiers  when they protested in this manner.
With such exemplars of environmental crusades  before them, the Bishnoi’s are driven to preserve and emulate  their ancestor’s legacy. Besides Rajasthan, the Bishnoi’s are found in pockets of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and they practice their strict credo for wildlife and environmental protection everywhere.  They have 29 tenants as laid down to them by their Guru Jambheshwar, out of which 8 pertain to protecting and respecting wildlife and environment.
Bollywood actor Salman Khan had come in their crosshair in 1998 when he  shot dead a black buck in a Jodhpur village during the filming of one  of his films. The Bishnoi’s  not only gave chase but insured that the actor  was booked and he  still faces charges for the crime in a Jodhpur court.
We climb the high dune  behind Ranaram just in time to catch the saplings in the orange light of the setting sun.

Standing at this elevation, overlooking the fields and the villages beyond, you get a sense of Ranaram’s immense contribution.   You also get a sense of his fortitude in planting saplings in the sand and watering them each day to breath life into them as it were. At his age his relentless war against the tide of the desert is indeed commendable.
But Ranaram is unassumingly honest, “ It was for environment of course  but it was also for my self-interest. My field is just under this dune and had I not planted these trees my field would have been the first to be consumed”, says Ranaram.
It is this honesty that defines him and it’s his simple, unstudied idea of ecology that endears you to him; “The plants, and the animals were on the planet much before we landed here. They have more rights on the planet than us and if we cannot give that to them at least we can insure we don’t destroy them in our greed”, he says.
His loose white shirt and dhoti- the attire of an average  Bishnoi-  flutters in the desert wind as he   moves over the tree dotted dunes with the pride of a patriarch. He stoops with childlike enthusiasm to show you evidence of birds adopting his trees for nesting and shelter. And then strides fast across the sands to show you the latest saplings he planted.
He hems in all the fresh saplings with dried thorn bushes to prevent cattle or wildlife  from eating them  up. But it is man, he  says who is the  biggest danger to the trees. “ There is no end to our greed but we must realize that without these plants and animals we just cannot survive”, he says.
There are no thorn bushes or fences that can keep a man away from destroying the  ecology he says. Only some awareness,  he says can help.

This article is copied from here

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How fruit trees in Indian village save girls' lives

Sneha Surabhi (Photo: Prashant Ravi)
Sneha, four, says she regularly waters the trees her father planted for her Photos: Prashant Ravi

In India, where traditionally boys have been preferred over girls, a village in backward Bihar state has been setting an example by planting trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child.

In Dharhara village, Bhagalpur district, families plant a minimum of 10 trees whenever a girl child is born.
And this practice is paying off. Nikah Kumari, 19, is all set to get married in early June. The would-be groom is a state school teacher chosen by her father, Subhas Singh.
Mr Singh is a small-scale farmer with a meagre income, but he is not worried about the high expenses needed for the marriage ceremony. For, in keeping with the village tradition, he had planted 10 mango trees the day Nikah was born. The girl - and the trees - were nurtured over the years and today both are grown up.

Dowry deaths
"Today that day has come for which we had planted the trees. We've sold off the fruits of the trees for three years in advance and got the money to pay for my daughter's wedding," Mr Singh told the BBC.
"The trees are our fixed deposits," he said.
 The village looks like a forest or a dense green patch
In Bihar, payment of dowry by the bride's family is a common practice. The price tag of the bridegroom often depends on his caste, social status and job profile.
The state is also infamous for the maximum number of dowry deaths in the country.
But the mango trees have freed Nikah's parents of undue worries. And their story is not unique in Dharhara village.
With a population of a little over 7,000, the village has more than 100,000 fully grown trees, mostly of mango and lychee.
From a distance, the village looks like a forest or a dense green patch amidst the parched and arid cluster of villages in the area.
'Great value'
And most residents can be spotted sitting in the cool orchards outside their homes.
"Now, we've stopped doing traditional farming of wheat and paddy. We plant as many trees as we can since they are more profitable and dependable," said villager Shyam Sunder Singh.
 The villagers have been planting trees for generations
Mr Singh paid for the weddings of his three daughters after selling fruits of trees he had planted at the time of their birth.
"One medium-size mango orchard is valued at around 200,000 rupees ($4,245; £2,900) every season. These trees have great commercial value and they are a big support for us at the time of our daughter's marriage," he says.
The villagers say they save a part of the money earned through the sale of fruits every year in a bank account opened in their daughter's name.
The tree-planting has been going on in the village for generations now.
"We heard about it from our fathers and they from their fathers. It has been in the family and the village from ages," says Subhendu Kumar Singh, a school teacher.
"This is our way of meeting the challenges of dowry, global warming and female foeticide. There has not been a single incident yet of female foeticide or dowry death in our village," he says.
His cousin, Shankar Singh, planted 30 trees at the time of his daughter Sneha Surabhi's birth.
Sneha, four, is aware that her father has planted trees in her name; the child says she regularly waters the saplings.
As yet she doesn't know what dowry is, and says the trees will bear fruits for her "to eat".
The village's oldest resident, Shatrughan Prasad Singh, 86, has planted around 500 mango and lychee trees in his 25 acres of land.
His grand-daughters, Nishi and Ruchi, are confident the trees mean their family will have no problem paying for their weddings.

"The whole world should emulate us and plant more trees," says their father Prabhu Dayal Singh.

The article is taken from here

Friday, April 12, 2013

A village that plants 111 trees for every girl born in Rajasthan

In an atmosphere where every morning, our newspapers greet us with stories of girls being tormented, raped, killed or treated like a doormat in one way or another, trust India's “village republics” to bring in some good news from time to time.

One such village in southern Rajasthan's Rajsamand district is quietly practicing its own, homegrown brand of Eco-feminism and achieving spectacular results.

For the last several years, Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and increasing the green cover in and around it at the same time.

Here, villagers plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up.

Over the last six years, people here have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village's grazing commons- inlcuding neem, sheesham, mango, Amla among others.

On an average 60 girls are born here every year, according to the village's former sarpanch Shyam Sundar Paliwal, who was instrumental in starting this initiative in the memory of his daughter Kiran, who died a few years ago.

In about half these cases, parents are reluctant to accept the girl children, he says.
Such families are identified by a village committee comprising the village school principal along with panchayat and Anganwadi members.

Rs. 21,000 are collected from the village residents and Rs.10,000 from the girl's father and this sum of Rs. 31,000 is made into a fixed deposit for the girl, with a maturity period of 20 years.

But here's the best part.

“We make these parents sign an affidavit promising that they would not marry her off before the legal age, send her to school regularly and take care of the trees planted in her name,” says Mr. Paliwal.
People also plant 11 trees whenever a family member dies.
But this village of 8,000 did not just stop at planting trees and greening their commons. To prevent these trees from being infested with termite, the residents planted over two and a half million Aloevera plants around them.
Now these trees, especially the Aloevera, are a source of livelihood for several residents.

Copyrighted article. Blogging here to spread the word.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Indian man single-handedly plants a 1,360-acre forest

A little more than 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav "Molai" Payeng began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in northern India's Assam region to grow a refuge for wildlife. Not long after, he decided to dedicate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site where he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acres of jungle that Payeng planted — single-handedly.
The Times of India recently caught up with Payeng in his remote forest lodge to learn more about how he came to leave such an indelible mark on the landscape.
It all started way back in 1979, when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng, only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.
"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested," says Payeng, now 47.
While it's taken years for Payeng's remarkable dedication to planting to receive some well-deserved recognition internationally, it didn't take long for wildlife in the region to benefit from the manufactured forest. Demonstrating a keen understanding of ecological balance, Payeng even transplanted ants to his burgeoning ecosystem to bolster its natural harmony. Soon the shadeless sandbar was transformed into a self-functioning environment where a menagerie of creatures could dwell. The forest, called the Molai woods, now serves as a safe haven for numerous birds, deer, rhinos, tigers and elephants — species increasingly at risk from habitat loss.
Despite the conspicuousness of Payeng's project, forestry officials in the region first learned of this new forest in 2008 — and since then they've come to recognize his efforts as truly remarkable, but perhaps not enough.
"We're amazed at Payeng," says Gunin Saikia, assistant conservator of Forests. "He has been at it for 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero."

Copyrighted article, taken from here

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Legless Chinese man has planted 3,000 trees in 10 years

A retired veteran who lost both his legs has spent 10 years planting more than 3,000 trees on the sides of north China's remote mountains. Sixty two-year-old Ma Sanxiao is a former soldier. He lost both of his legs due to sepsis, a disease where blood is overwhelmed by bacteria. He had one leg amputated in 1984, the other in 2004.

But that has not stopped him from planting more than 3,000 trees on nearby mountains in Jingxing county in Hebei Province during the past 10 years. Ma gets before 5 a.m. every day, puts on his prosthetic limbs, climbs the mountains and plants trees.

It takes Ma more than 40 minutes to climb just hundreds of metres of mountain. Because he's not "climbing", he's "crawling". Ma said that after the first amputation, he was distressed. He sold everything valuable at home and ran into heavy debt.

He then began to plant trees in 2001 on the barren mountains nearby, hoping to earn money by selling the trees. Later his situation improved as the pensions for retired veterans increased. Ma decided never to sell the trees and just let them improve the ecological environment. "I plant more trees to make the mountains greener. As you see, the straight lines of trees are just like green soldiers of the nature," he said.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mangrove conservation is 'economic' CO2 fix

Mangrove habitats comprise less than 1% of all forest areas across the world.
But for the biodiversity they support, and the benefits they bring to communities in the form of fishing habitats and storm protection barriers, they are extremely important.
They are also being lost at a greater rate than tropical rainforests.
Similar to rainforests, they store carbon within their "biomass", which is released when the habitat is destroyed.
Their ability to capture carbon may be on average five times that of tropical rainforests, so they have become of interest to carbon-focused conservation strategists.

Full article here

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Indian scientists have been successful in conserving 131 trees at the 800-year-old Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia, better known as 'Temple Tree'.
Experts from the Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI) along with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have been working on the Conservation and Restoration of Ta Prohm Temple (Cambodia) Project under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) of the external affairs ministry.
The team, which has been working there since 2007, has started seeing some good results with improvement in the health of trees which were in a bad shape, threatening the monument built in the late 12th century by Jayavarman VII of the Khmer empire in memory of his mother. The temple is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Several movies, including the Hollywood blockbuster "Tomb Raider", were shot there.
Different species of matured and young trees, some standing on the ground and some on the walls and roofs of various structures, are seen in the temple premises.
The most common tree species is Tetrameles nudiflora, locally known as 'Speung'.
N.S.K. Harsh, head of Forest Pathology at the Forest Research Institute (FRI), said that before starting the project, they conducted a survey and found that of the 131 trees in the premises, 36 needed immediate attention.
"The trees were found under stress at the site due to heavy tourist pressure, soil compaction, injuries to exposed roots and stems, cavities in trees and exposed buttresses and basal rotting. Besides, a few trees were dangerously leaning and causing the walls and other structures to collapse under their weight," Harsh told IANS.
The tree height here ranges from 40 to 80 metres with huge trunks while the girth exceeds more than three metres in some cases and buttresses span up to 13 metres at the base.
The buttresses and roots are spreading all over the structures and ground, making them magnificent visual objects.
The institute's team carried out periodic treatment of the decayed portion of trunks, stems and roots of the trees by using eco-friendly material (an oleoresin tapped from a tree) followed by cavity filling with polyurethane foam and wax.
The exposed roots of trees were covered with soil in different sections. Periodic surface treatment with anti-fungal material on etched surfaces was prescribed.
A prop was provided to support a dangerously leaning tree and was designed to withstand its swaying and weight. A metallic support was designed and erected below a wall collapsing under the weight of the tree.
"I would say timely intervention by FRI has halted further deterioration of tree health. The trees are now in a better health and their life span has increased," Harsh said.
FRI has also carried out training classes for capacity building of local stakeholders so that they can continue the conservation work on their own post-2014 when the institute's contract ends.
Regular monitoring of tree health is being done to check the level of decay, insect attacks, phenological behaviour and emerging tree growth pattern.
This is not the first time that India is helping Cambodia in restoration of a heritage site. Indian archaeologists had successfully restored the world famous Angkor Vat temple in the country.
In India, the FRI has conserved the famous Bodhi tree ('pipal') in Bodhgaya, a direct descendant of the original tree under which the Buddha meditated. It has also conserved a neem tree in the Sai Baba temple in Shirdi in Maharshtra.

Article here

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Farmland to revert to forest in China's green plan

Shrugging off accusations of rampant industrial pollution and the news that it has overtaken the US as the world's largest carbon emitter, China last week unveiled a conservation strategy for its flora.
The country is home to 10 per cent of all known plant species - half of those unique to China - and about 5000 species are under threat. The initiative involves a novel collaboration between three state agencies and London-based Botanic Gardens Conservation International. The plan is to safeguard China's plant diversity by allowing 15 million hectares of farmland to revert to forest over the next three years, extending nature reserves, protecting biodiversity hotspots and setting up a plant monitoring system. Farmland will also be managed to support wild plant conservation.
"The Chinese government is working hard to develop the economy and improve our sustainable environmental practices," says Jia Jiansheng of the department of wildlife conservation in the State Forestry Administration, Beijing.

Link here

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Forest officer single-handedly reclaims 6,000 acres in 3 years

(Picture might be copyrighted)

In June 2008, when he took over as Nenmara Divisional Forest Officer in Kerala, P. Dhanesh Kumar was widely seen as a hunted man.
His daring interventions as Mananthavady range officer had got him into trouble with politicians and the ganja mafia.
Quotation gangs were unleashed against him. He was given police protection and an attack on the Mananthavady range office left a senior superintendent seriously injured.
Dhanesh was often advised by his seniors and well-wishers to quit Wayanad, if not for his sake then for his staff’s.
His transfer to Nenmara with a promotion as DFO, was seen as a way of keeping him safe as he had escaped death by a whisker a number of times in Mananthavady, Chalakkuzhy, Marayur and Attappady.
His right leg, injured in an encounter with cinnamon bark poachers, had been operated on. Then he lost the little toe of the same limb in another attack and it had to be attached surgically.
But if anyone expected him to lie low in the face of the threats and injuries, he soon proved them wrong.
Within a month of taking over as Nenmara DFO, the officer launched a one-man operation that environmentalists now refer to as ‘Operation Clean Nelliampathy’.
Between June 2008 and July 2011 he dug up documents, fought multiple court battles and suffered deep physical and emotional wounds to reclaim over 6,000 acres of illegally occupied forest land in Nelliyampathy, exposing lease violations of 32 estates spread over 4,000 acres in the process.
“Dhanesh did a great job. He took care of all legal loopholes and the evictions carried out on the basis of his report can never be questioned,” says Mr Harish Vasudevan, a lawyer who worked closely with the dogged officer.
‘Operation Clean Nelliyampathy’ began with attempts to reclaim the 462 acre Oruvambady estate, whose owners had allegedly secured a favourable verdict from the high court using fabricated documents.
“I knew that the land was notified as ecologically fragile and belonged to the forest department. A preliminary inspection revealed that a gang of land grabbers with expertise in forging documents was operating out of Nenmara,” Dhanesh recalls.
His battle was fought on two fronts; one in the musty backrooms of sub-registrar offices and the other in the court-room.
Dhaneesh was looking for original lease deeds and this meant digging up records dating back to the 19th century as most leases were granted in the latter half of the 1800s by the Kochi maharaja.
But, the job also required scouring archives to find British survey numbers.
A detailed investigation later, the irregularities detected included: violation of lease conditions and the Forest Conservation Act, encroachment of surrounding forests, use of forged documents and lessees holding on to land even after having lost cases in courts.
“During his stint in Nenmara, Dhanesh prepared at least six counters a day to present in court, each one running into 20-30 pages,” recalls Mr Vasudevan. Dhaneesh didn’t hesitate to spend from his own pocket either.
“Each forest division gets not more than Rs 10,000 a year for making photostats. But Dhanesh spent over 1.5 lakh annually on this. He is not the kind who would recover the money by fudging accounts,” the advocate adds.
But his mission to save the forests has cost him in other ways too. Because of the constant threats to his life, he has kept his wife and child at a distance.
“My son is now three years old. I hardly saw him for nearly two-and-a-half years while the Nelliampathy operation was on,” recalls the officer, who finally sought a transfer in 2011, after his dogged fight of three years to restore the state’s forests.

Article here

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Man Made a Forest and Lives Inside It

Read about Abdul Kareem in the following links who created a forest in a barren land.
Picture may be copyrighted. Courtesy Outlook India.
He lives in the thick of a forest, created by him
Article in Outlook
From Good News India
From Shekhar Kapoor