Forest department's latest strategy to protect state's fast depleting green cover is to provide cooking gas connections to tribals who chop trees for firewood

In its bid to protect the state's green cover, which has been depleting at a brisk rate, the State Forest Department is mulling over a few projects it thinks will help bring down the rate of deforestation.

The projects
One such pilot project the department is keen on introducing is providing the forest dwellers with cooking gas. According to the officials, these tribals/villagers chop trees for firewood, thus playing a part in deforestation. Hence, by providing them with cooking gas, the department plans to reduce their dependency on wood as fuel and save the forests. Besides, the department is also planning to replace the unproductive cattle owned by some of these dwellers with productive ones.

Change needed
According to a source from the forest department, "This initiative has been taken to protect state's green cover. It is essential that change isĀ  introduced at a grassroot level. Hence to make sure that the usage of firewood diminishes, the department has asked all its forest conservators to identify villages that can help the state in executing these positive initiatives and help maintain the green cover. Soon, a list of villages will be forwarded to the department so that changes can be implemented."

Developing tourism
In addition to the above-mentioned projects, the department has decided to identify a few tourist spots such as forts, temples or water bodies, to improve the financial status of the villagers and introduce developments in these regions. The source added, "A particular village near Mahabaleshwar is visited by nearly 3 lakh tourists annually and if the villagers are allowed to collect Rs 10 as parking charges, it can help both, the villagers and the state to generate revenue."

Official word
Confirming that the department is serious about introducing changes, Kishore Rithe, a member of National Board for Wild Life (NBWL), said, "It is good to know that finally, the department is serious about protecting state's greenery. I hope that the villages are identified soon and the villagers embrace the projects with open arms, because these projects will not only bring development, but will also create job opportunities for them."

3 lakh
The number of tourists that visit Mahabhaleshwar on a yearly basis