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Central Himalayan activists protest felling of trees

Date: 26-06-1998 :: Pg: 03 :: Col: a

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, June 25.

It was a women-dominated show at the National Gandhi Memorial Museum today to mark the 23rd anniversary of the declaration of Emergency where activists of the central Himalayan region raised their voices against mindless felling of trees, erosion of land and misuse of water resources.

Described as a people’s movement in the central Himalayas for conservation of land, water and forests, the participants said that the old British policy regarding felling of trees continued even today despite a Government ban in 1983 on cutting of trees above 1000 metres tall for 10 years. However, between 1993 to 1998 felling of trees was at its peak, indicating the Government’s failure to conserve the forest cover.

As a protest against the nexus between the forest mafia and the Forest Corporation of UP, the socially conscious women from the villages as well as Sarvodaya workers tied `Raksha Bandhan’ on trees which had been earmarked for felling in the river catchment areas. Women speakers at the function, organised by the Himalaya Seva Sangh, said that they had resolved to conserve water, land and forest resources and had even come out on the streets to oppose the Government’s tree felling policy. At some places the people’s resistance to felling of trees was successful.

The Raksha Sutra Movement _ as the activists describe their movement _ found through a people’s inquiry that the main culprit was the U.P.Forest Corporation, which came into existence in 1974, as it had failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people. Even an inquiry report prepared by the Chief Forest Conservators of Garhwal and Bhagirathi circles has described the functioning of the Forest Corporation as worse than the erstwhile `contract system.’ The enquiry report says that rare species of trees and vegetation in the higher altitudes were extremely important from the environment point of view as these help prevent floods. Unfortunately, the Forest Corporation had marked green areas as dry zones without the supervision of any competent officer which had resulted in indiscriminate felling of trees.

The women said that the Supreme Court was aware of the situation but not much was being done to curb this activity. It demanded the dismantling of the Forest Corporation.

The activists also expressed dissatisfaction over the functioning of the National Commission for Women and said it lacked proper understanding of the dangers faced by these agitators despite the NCW teams making several visits to these areas.

It was announced that an independent “Uttarakhand Van Adhyayan Jan Samiti”, which had begun its work, would complete its enquiry by October.