Solar cookers,courses make residents self-reliant,stop dependence on forest
To Light her chulha (traditional stove),Shanuben Patel of Khijadia village no longer cuts gando bawal surrounding the Khijadia Bird Sanctuary,a unique wetland for sea and land birds some 20 kilometres from Jamnagar city. The wetland forms a part of the Marine National Park with sea water on one side and land on the other.
The reason behind the change in her lifestyle is because of the solar cooker the state Forest Department has given to her village under a World Bank-funded eco-development project.
Ten villages of Jamnagar district Khijadia,Jodia,Okunala,Balachai,Sachana,Khara Biraja,Parodia,Simani,Samna and Poshitra have been selected under the first phase of the project. A sum of Rs 8 lakh has been spent for each village towards solar cookers,bio-gas self-reliance courses on automobiles,sewing and the like.
Eventually,the state Forest Department plans to cover all 97 villages from Navlakhi in Kutch district to Okha in Jamnagar district under the project.
Besides eliminating the requirement for wood,the solar cooker is environment-friendly too.
The sanctuary is home to several bird species like black ibis,black-winged kite,brahminy kite,pheasant-tailed jacana,great thick-knee,common greenshank,grey francolin,imperial eagle,Indian pond heron,little tern,black-tailed godwit,comb duck,common crane,common teal,dunlin,garganey,marsh harrier,northern pintail,shoveler,Eurasian wigeon,pale harrier,demoiselle crane,sanderling and darters. Through this project,the Forest Department aims to conserve the bio-diversity by reducing the negative impact of the human population on the protected area.
The electrician,automobile repairing and sewing class courses aim to make the villagers financially independent and stop their dependence on wood cutting,fishing and the like.
Yogesh Ramani,a villager said: At Khijadia village,all three courses have received tremendous response as the locals are getting a chance to learn something from which they can earn their livelihood. Many who were engaged in wood cutting are now set to open automobile repairing shops or work as electricians. Even the women can support their family through sewing.
A villager added: We hardly earned anything by selling wood. But now I am an electrician and my wife stitches clothes. Together we make a decent living.
P Sata,Deputy Forest Officer (Marine),Jamnagar,said: The project has just started,but we are getting good results. The aim is to try to bring locals close to nature and make them aware and more responsible in conserving biodiversity through eco-development of their village.
At every village,an eco-development committee has been formed that shoulders responsibility to bridge the gap between the Forest Department and locals.
Vijiben Patel,another villager added: Many tourists come to Khijadia to watch birds. We understand the importance,but were helpless against cutting down gando bawal. We are careful now.