May 31, 2011 4:17:59 am
Efforts made to improve the agricultural activity in the four tribal talukas of Vadodara districts,which are home to endangered wildlife species,have paid off.
In the census recently carried out by the Gujarat State Forest Department,a substantial rise has been noticed in the number of sloth bears. As per the last census of 2006,the number of sloth bears in Gujarat was 247 of which Ratanmahal Sanctuary accounted for 66 bears and Jasore and Balaram in Ambaji and other forest areas in Banaskantha district 69 bears.
In Dahod and Vadodara districts,where sloth bears are seen in Kevdi and Chhotaudepur,the number has gone up from 97 to 105,while in Dahod and Vadodara,the number has increased from 40 to 46.
Senior forest officers said the macro level planning done under various schemes to improve the biodiversity has paid off and it is not confined to the increase in the number of leopard and sloth bears. The funds given by the state owned Gujarat Green Revolution Company (GGRC),Tribal Development Department and Watershed Fund has been utilised on 2,688 hectares in last two years,said a forest department officer.
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Chief Conservator of Forests Ashok Saxena told The Indian Express: When we implement the schemes,it is for the overall improvement of biodiversity and sloth bear and leopards are part of it. We are happy that the number of sloth bears and leopards have increased as it simply means that they have found a conducive environment. We did not want to implement plans which had only wildlife in mind as it would have been injustice to the people who are helping save the same. That is why we decided to first take care of the needs of the tribal communities.
Saxena added that Rs 7.46 crore was spent through TDD funds,Rs 22 lakh through GGRC grant and Rs 90 lakh from the Watershed funds for the parallel implementation of the scheme.
The funds have been used on check dam with water lifting devices,training and placement to rural youth,milch cattle rearing,micro irrigation (sprinklers),agriculture equipment and creeper vegetable cultivation. In the last two years,we have been extensively working on improving on the agriculture,which is the most important thing for the tribals. As many as 313 tribal youth will get secured income through skill development and placement to jobs. These are the initiatives which have helped us in winning the confidence and trust of the local people, he said.
He added: Once we are satisfied that the needs and grievances of the locals are addressed,they will help us in improving the forest cover. In fact,they are now more than happy to work for us as they have understood our intentions. There could be other scientific reasons too,but efforts of the Forest Department and the tribals to conserve the biodiversity is also one of the reasons.
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