In an attempt to bring people closer to forests in Uttarakhand, the Harish Rawat government in last one year did try to involve them in environment conservation with its Chief Minister’s flagship Hamara Ped Hamara Dhan Yojana. The scheme is meant to encourage plantation of saplings in private lands.

Forest predominant Uttarakhand always had its own set of challenges in terms of biodiversity conservation and its ramifications on public life. The growing pressure of people expressing resentment against policies that promote conservation over development has always been a challenge for governance.

In its one year in office, the Harish Rawat government repeatedly raised the issue of green bonus for Uttarakhand with the Centre. Green bonus is a monetary compensation in lieu of the state’s forest conservation efforts. Though the state didn’t get any green bonus from the Centre, the state government blamed the Narendra Modi government for it. The Hamara Ped Hamara Dhan yojana has been the biggest pro-people and pro-conservation initiative by the Harish Rawat government. The incentive-based project is to encourage plantation of saplings on personal land, which will fulfil the needs of fodder, timber and fuel. The scheme, which has been implemented, will increase tree cover outside forests in the state and land owners will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the scheme.

The Hamara Pedh, Hamara Dhan scheme is a 10-year project and the plantation work will be carried out for 5 years. A target for 50,000 plants has been set for 2014-15 year. In case of an excess number of applicants, the names of beneficiaries will be decided through a draw of lots. A single applicant will get a maximum of 100 saplings for planting. The government will be giving cash incentives in the form of fix deposits to farmers under the scheme, which is the main attraction of the yojana.

Another major initiative is the Charaghah Vikas Yojana. The scheme entails growing fodder in barren land at the behest of panchayats. Chief Minister Harish Rawat has also laid much emphasis on eco tourism, which he finds the best possible solution to strike a balance between development and conservation. He asserts that eco tourism will provide livelihood opportunities to villagers, besides keeping environment intact.

Uttarakhand continues to face a growing challenge of man-animal conflicts. Leopards continue to be killing people in the state. In 2014, 16 persons were killed and 23 persons injured in leopard attacks. The Chief Minister has been constantly asking forest officials to ensure timely payment of compensation to the families of the victims.

To placate growing resentment among people against damage to their crops by wildlife, the Harish Rawat government has also requested the Union Forest Minister to allow killing of problematic wildlife that damage human property and crops. Uttarakhand wishes that these wildlife such as wild dogs, Neelgais, and monkeys be declared vermin for a specified period in a given area, following which they can be culled without restriction.

Interestingly, while expressing solidarity with the people of Uttarakhand, who aspire for development, Harish Rawat also continued with its commitment to safeguarding the environment and wildlife. While attending Himalayan Day celebrates in Dehradun on September 9, the Chief Minister pleged to work for environment conservation in the region. The increase in number of tigers in Uttarakhand as revealed in the report of the Wildlife Institute of India a week ago came as a big boost for the Harish Rawat government. The tiger population in the state has increased from 227 to 340.

Source: The Tribune Chandigarh