Managing the woods
He has seen the forests being destroyed since the 1950s. Today, he is trying to unite people to undo the damage. Dase Gaud, 75, has played a vital role in the formation of Hottebetta Vana Samrakshana Samithi (HVSS). As an "opinion-maker". he has successfully made people cast their personal differences aside and work together to improve the environment.
"The entire area was once covered with a dense forest. But the severe drought in the 1950s forced people to turn to the forests for daily survival. And the forests became the lone source of employment and livelihood," says Gaud. Even at that time, Gaud tried to convince the people that if they destroy the forests, they will have to face nature's ire.
But till 199S, Gaud's efforts to revive the forests did not yield any success because of a lack of people's participation. After Naidu took over as Andhra Pradesh's chief minister in February 1996 and initiated the Joint Forest Management programme, the villagers undertook the respottsibility of: regenerating 220 hectares (ha) of forests. They planted trees in 30 ha of land, and, in the subsequent year, they took up fodder development and land regeneration activities in another 30 ha and 60 ha of land, respectively.
A study by the department of rural development and social work of the S K University, Anantapur, shows that in recent years, a natural regeneration of trees such as neem and sandalwood have been noticed. Fodder availability has also increased. Besides, villagers do not have to migrate in search of employment anymore. HVSS has generated ample job opportunities in the village itself.
According to Kallol Biswas, Anantapur forest officer, "After successfully managing 220 ha of forest area, the villagers have requested the forest department for another 100 ha. We have decided to allot them the desired land as the HVSS has shown remarkable results."
HVSS meets twice a month to assess development activities and financial status. They regularly organise cultural programmes to highlight environmental issues such as forest protection, soil erosion and the impact of forest destruction. "Today, more than 90 per cent of people in the village take an interest in forest protection,- says K C Timappa, a villager from Hottebetta.
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