To save a forest

To save a forest THE ecosystem of the world's largest mangrove, the Sundarbans in West Bengal, was falling apart until local forest authorities took up conservation projects to educate the locals and wean them away from environment-damaging activities.

As the residents of the 1,000-odd villages in the Sajnekhali area, some 120 km from the state capital. Calcutta, mainly depended on winter rabi crop, there were hardly any options for them other than fishing for tiger prawn seedlings in the rivers that criss-cross the delta.

Equipped with small, hand-held nets, women and children fish for the seedlings all day long, destroying, not only the seedlings of other fishes, but disturbing the silt near the banks as well. In a bid to end this trend, the forest department adopted 27 villages two years ago, educating them about the importance of a well-balanced ecosystem. The department has formed 14 eco-development committees near Sajnekhali sanctuary and 10 forest development committees.

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