The state forest department had launched an unique initiative to reduce cutting down of trees around Sinhagad Fort in 2012.
Under the project, the villagers of five villages —Sambrewadi, Thotewadi, Atkarwadi, Donje and Mordari — were given gas stove connections at subsidised rates. The project, which was carried out in phases, is in its last leg now and the last set of gas connections will be issued to the remaining 19 villagers of Sambrewadi.
The project has already yielded some results. “The cutting down of trees has reduced by over 90 per cent. Only some of the villagers were left, but they too have
been handed over gas connections recently,” said Prabhakar Kad, round forest officer and secretary of forest conservation committee. Under the project, the villagers have been given 75 per cent subsidy on gas stove connections.
Kad said, earlier, the villagers depended on forest wood for cooking. “Even issuing strict warnings didn’t work, primarily because the villagers did not have an alternative. However, now they do,” he said.
Additionally, to keep an eye on cutting down of trees, officials of the forest department as well as forest conservation committee patrol the area daily. Each village has its own committee and two security guards appointed by it to keep a check on cutting of trees by the villagers.
“It isn’t that the villagers couldn’t afford a gas cylinder, but securing a gas connection was tough because of the formalities and papers required. We guided them and got gas stove connections issued. Now, they do not need to cut trees and their life is simpler,” he said.
The project was implemented by the forest conservation committee of all the five villages. Kad said that so far, 526 gas connections have been established for villagers of Sambrewadi, Thotewadi, Atkarwadi, Donje and Mordari.
“Sinhagad Fort is one of the most famous forts of Maharashtra and attracts public from all the cities of the state. Its real beauty is the greenery around it. Finding a solution to reduce cutting down of trees is one of the many steps we have taken to maintain the glory of this historic fort,” he said, adding that the fort had a makeover over the past one year. Earlier, plastic bags, water and liquor bottles would be found lying around the fort, but now it wears a different look.
The fort is situated in the village Atkarwadi. Over 50 garbage bins have been installed, every 200 metres, around the fort, resulting in at least 90 per cent
reduction in garbage.
At the toll plaza, visitors are asked if they are carrying products in plastic bags and to deposit that at the plaza. A number of notice boards have been put up about using dustbins and fines (Rs 100) to be paid for throwing waste products elsewhere.
The fort sees at least 400 to 600 visitors on weekdays and at least 3,000 visitors on Saturdays and Sundays.