What is the source of well-being in rural India?
When the first British explorers reached the Indian sub-continent they all reported that India is a land covered with lush jungles and that poverty was more or less non existent. Since then, the situation has dramatically changed.
Today it is reported that about 20% of the lands in India are covered by forests, but practically we can assess that only half of these contemporary forests shelter quality ecosystems. That leaves us with about 10% of forest with significant biodiversity and wildlife. At the same time, poverty in India has peaked. The Indian government has estimated that about 21% of Indians are extremely poor. This figure is most likely undervalued as most government statistics tend to be.
What we wish to highlight here is that there is a intimate correlation between the well-being of a natural ecosystem and the well-being of the communities around them.
Burning well-being in the Himalayas
The Himalayas, along with the Eastern & Western Ghats and the Central East region, have a relatively well preserved forest cover, but the question we ask is “for how long”? We are located right opposite to the Great Himalayan National Park, a protected area, and a biodiversity and wildlife hotspot. In spite of that, most of the forest lands, outside and even inside the Park, are getting burnt to the ground at an alarming rate .
The large majority of these forest fires are man-made, or intentional.
These forest fires have dire consequences for the local ecology and the communities around them that rely of these ecosystems for their day to day lives. Moreover it has a negative impact on climate change as it contributes to the acceleration of the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.
These forest fires are an extremely damaging bet by the local people as for some short term financial gains they are jeopardizing the well-being of the generations to come.
“Stop Forest Fires” project
Fighting forest fires is the highest priority of Himalayan Ecotourism to facilitate the conservation of the Great Himalayan National Park and its surrounding.
Since 2014, we have been conducting research to understand why the rationale behind why the locals engage in these harmful activities, what could be the alternatives, and how we could do something about it. It is not an easy task because addressing the problem of forest fires means actually confronting the inherent greed and laziness of human beings as, somehow, forest fires are an easy way to make money.
Our strategy to reduce the intentional forest fires is to create a social movement against the practice. And so, we started with raising awareness among the villagers and school children.
Here the various steps taken so far :
- Broadcasting our documentary to promote conservation
- Placing road signs, posters and various stickers in the shops, dhabas, in village, in the schools, on the pathways, etc.
- Giving out leaflets to school children
- Organizing discussions with the local villagers
- Making presentations to children in their schools
- Promoting our Facebook page “Stop Forest Fires”
- Publishing articles about the matter
- Creating a special cartoon called “Jani & Daubi” to appeal to younger minds.
You can learn more about our actions by following the links below :
- My first encounter with forest fire (article by an intern)
- The phase 3 of our Stop Forest Fires initiative
- Flames in the forest (article published in the Indian Express)
- Stop Forest Fires – Actions in 2018 (video for our crowdfunding campaign)
- 40 Days of Forest Fires in Kullu Valley (video to report forest fires)
Please support our project by donating even a small amount of money to our crowdfunding campaign.