How green are the Ghats?

How green are the Ghats?

GREEN INITIATIVES The Village Forest Committees (VFCs) have played a major role in greening the Western Ghats. Photo by Manjunath Sullolli

But the key to any greening programme is community participation. The government realised that the involvement of people living around forest areas was vital to arrest the decline of forest cover. In keeping with this belief, the government implemented the Joint Forest Planning and Management (JFPM) programme in 1993 across the state.

As many as 3,000 Village Forest Committees (VFCs) have been formed in the state so far. The first VFC in the state was formed in April 1993 at Talagadde village in Ankola taluk of Karwar division. But the first VFC to actually sign an MoU with the forest department was Kangod of Sirsi in 1995.

The major foreign funded programmes which supported JFPM are the Western Ghats Environment and Forestry Project (WGEFP) and Japan funded Forestry and Environment Project for Eastern Plains (FEPEP).
Most of the Western Ghats forests that lie in Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and Chikmagalur districts have been covered as part of the programme. The FEPEP has shown the way when it comes to involving NGOs and the community towards greening the plains.

Though the success rate of these two programmes varies from district to district, the two projects have played a key role in spreading awareness about JFPM programmes in the state. Many villages have turned into model villages thanks to these programmes.

Mugali, a small village near Dharwad is one such example. Residents of this village have played a key role in raising 210 acres of plantation.

In 1998, the then Deputy Commissioner Vandana Gurnani, Chief Executive Officer of Zilla Panchayat Nilay Mitash, and Deputy Conservator of Forest Sanjay Mohan succeeded in evicting encroachments and convinced villagers to plant saplings.

Today, this VFC is earning a good income thanks to this programme.

According to the forest department sources, nearly 10 per cent of degraded land has been reclaimed. A number of plantations can be spotted in many dry regions of northern Karnataka, thanks to this programme.