SUBJECT :New programme aims to boost conservation while providing villagers with employment and benefits 

The biodiversity rich forest area of Bhimashankar, which is close to Junnar; the latter, along with Sinhagad, will be first targeted under the new project; FILE PHOTO

April 24, 2018: In a bid to increase the participation of various villagers in the conservation of forests across the state, as well as to provide additional employment to these rural inhabitants, the Maharashtra forest department has now zeroed in on promoting eco-tourism. For this, the department has identified 320 sites around the state and is now looking at proposals presented by forest officials of different regions.

The department feels there is a lot of scope in western Maharashtra, particularly, that is worth exploring. In Pune division, Junnar and Sinhagad will be taken up first for this project.

The department feels there is a lot of scope in western Maharashtra, particularly, that is worth exploring. In Pune division, Junnar and Sinhagad will be taken up first for this project.

Governing council member of the Maharashtra State Eco Tourism Development Board, Anuj Khare, told Mirror, “To give visitors a proper forest experience, activities are also being planned in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. Tourists will get a chance to cycle in the buffer zone there, and a machaan and nature walks have also been proposed.”

The programme focuses on ensuring protection and conservation of forests, alongside monetary benefit to locals. Since area villagers know forests better than most, they will be taking charge of this eco-tourism project and its functioning. Initially, the department will support them via trainings and guidance on how to manage things, but ultimate ownership will be in the hands of villagers.

Additional principal chief conservator of forests in the state, Sunil Limaye, further explained, “No one knows a forest better than its inhabitants or neighbours. So, we are looking forward to promoting our concept in far-flung hamlets, too. There are so many locations people wish to visit and explore, but the forest department had limitations to allow this. Now, a committee will be set up in each village, comprising villagers, to help them earn a livelihood through our project. We have earlier observed that villagers often lacked motivation to protect forests and conserve ecosystems. Even when they were told about the non-tangible benefits, they failed to realise the importance of the forest. But, ecotourism will give monetary benefits and employment and thus, ample motivation.”


Source: punemirror.indiatimes.com