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New scheme to combine welfare of villages with forest protection

The villagers will also be allowed to set up food stalls to sell eatables and other artifacts to tourists and the revenue so generated will be utilised in cleaning the villages and forests of litter and keeping a watch on illegal activities in the forests. In accordance with a government resolution (GR) issued last year by the department advocating promotion of welfare of villagers, the project will be initiated in villages like Atkarwadi near Lonavla, Karla, Nere and Rajmachi, among others. At these places, forest officials will spread awareness and provide training to the villagers to help protect their villages and adjoining forests.

Chief Conservator of Forests, Pune, Nitin Kakodkar said that the undertaking would play a part in collecting revenue for the development of villages, which will also reduce man-animal conflict.

“Whatever revenue is generated by the villagers through the refreshment stalls will be partly utilised in employing locals to keep the villages and the forested areas clean,” Kakodkar said. “If the villagers start earning, they will stop chopping down trees or grazing in the forests, especially in buffer zones, where they are likely to come in contact with the wild-life.”

In the programme, biogas and cooking gas will be provided to villagers so that they do not have to enter forested areas. Villagers will use fuel-efficient LPG stoves and receive the gas connections at subsidised rates. “We have already started the project work in Rajmachi and Atkarwadi,” Kakodkar said. “We have distributed LPG to about 15 families in Atkarwadi and now plan to reach over 100 across all villages listed. The villagers will be offered at least 75 per cent subsidy on gas stove connections to discourage use of wood from the nearby forests.”

The department is in the process of drafting micro plans for the forested lands near the city by appointing tourist guides and fire-watchers for the forests. “We are also in a process of increasing the wildlife corridor areas near the national parks to give more space to the animals,” Kakodkar said.

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