Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tribal

Often times tribal people are wrongly associated with the reason for deforestation in India. So here is a project which is restoring the forest via tribal initiatives in remote Melghat region.

Melghat is one of the home to the last remaining Tigers in India and known for it's malnutrition related deaths over years.

Nearly 190 hectares of forest land now is maintained by village Panchayat of Paivihir according to the Forest Rights Act of India.

After two years of efforts the villagers of Paivihir will be planting and sustaining 50,000 trees in the Paivihir Eco Village.

Thanks to the initial success, government of India has awarded AID partner KHOJ $1,25,000 for biogas connectivity to two villages in the area. This will help the village to become energy self sufficient. We have also provided a projector to spread the message about this project in the surrounding region.

Khoj is consulting Srinivasan C, an expert resource person in afforestation, for this effort in the Melghat region. 

 

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Background
•Melghat area is in Dharini Taluka of Amravati district known for it’s malnutrition related death in the area.
•Several organizations work in the area and millions are pumped by the government with very low results.
•RTI queries filed by AID partner KHOJ helps in the area helps in accountability of the funds distributed.
•According to the Forest rights act (FRA), a forest land can come under Panchayat for local community driven forest management.
•Work under MNREGA funds can be decided by the Panchayat.
•Paivihir eco village uses MNREGA funds for constructing check dams essential for afforestation.
•Under FRA villagers / tribals have right to access to the forest produce. Forest produce can be leaves, fruits, lak, bamboo in the forest.

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Purnima has been handling coordination for KHOJ along with Bandu from several years. Purnima is friendly and has good communication skills with the villagers. I think these aspects are important for overall health of the project. Purnima asked me to take these snaps as a benchmark of the future work.

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This view pretty much covers the entire village of Paivihir from a distant hill range. The area is heavily deforested and the scope of afforestation is good with further motivation from the KHOJ and villagers of Paivihir.

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Entrance to the hill area where the afforestation activity has started with construction of check dams through MNREGA program.

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Another view of the hill. Grazing is allowed only in the part of the hills to the cattles of Paivihir. Any other village cattles are not allowed and usually fined Rs. 250-500 for grazing in this area. The fund collected is stored in the village funds which helps in the future activities of the area.

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Check dams are constructed as seen in the figure using MNREGA. MNREGA guarantees 100 days of work to the villagers and covers small dam construction. These checkdams help in percolation of rain water which further improves the ground water level.

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Plastic bottles were collected and punctured small holes to give steady water supply to plants for a period of 2-3 days which reduced daily water distribution by villagers.

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This perspective view shows us the size of the hill as compared to the size of the humans.

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Water is still visible in otherwise dry spell beginning of winter.

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The other side of the hill is a little bit plain area where tall grass is growing. Villagers now understand the importance of restoration of forest and are actively participating in the restoration process.

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Check dams and contours are constructed everywhere which shows that the MNREGA funds has been adequately utilized.

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This is another view of the plantation activities. Total 210 villagers participated with 120 women and 90 men.

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This is another view of the plantation activities. Total 210 villagers participated with 120 women and 90 men.

 

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Water is getting accumulated at center of the geographic location as can be seen by the greenery in this specific area.

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Villagers have been doing Lak cultivation on the local plants. Other source of income has been custard apple. Villagers have sold custard apple for Rs. 3 lakhs with the funds being stored in village treasury.

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Village is visibly clean. This is the part of village cleanliness drive.

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Every home is equipped with a dustbin.

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Myself posing to prove visit by a volunteer :)

 

In Conclusion

•Paivihir eco village model if replicated across Melghat region can help in a major shift in the policy by government towards the tribal.
•This area will also see a huge amount of pollution coming from 80 coal power plants approved by government of India. Absence of carbon sink in the nearby area poses threat to the health of people in the already agrarian crisis hit Vidarbha area.
•A projector has been approved by JHU chapter for rapid knowledge dissipation in the region.
•More chapters should adopt villages for further afforestation of the region.
•The funds paid are for project coordinator of the region and he seemed to be well accustomed to the problems and very much connected to the people in the area.