Baripada, March 26 (LocalWire): Experts from various NGOs have urged the Supreme Court to withdraw its recent order to evict people living in forests and said such dwellers are the best protectors of forests.
The experts made the appeal during the 3rd Odisha River Conference, themed “Promote River Conservation and Combat Climate Change”, held here from March 24-25.
The conclave, jointly organised by WIO, Vasundhara, Gram Swaraj and 35 other partner NGOs, has identified youth as one of the key stakeholders to carry forward this year’s theme.
Speaking at the conference, environmentalist Ardhendu Chatterjee said, “We should get rid of the idea that jungle is for animals only and driving the forest dwellers away can keep the animals and forests safe.
“On the other hand forests, animals, forested communities and water resources and interlinked. One cannot exist without the other.
So, we should urge upon the Supreme Court to withdraw its recent order that is about to evict more than 1 million tribal and forested communities from their forests.”
Satish Sharma, an ecologist from the Foundation of Ecological Security, Udaipur, said: “Forests are not just carbon sinks.
They are the source of lives and livelihood of millions of local and indigenous communities. They recharge rivers and play a vital role in ensuring water security for all in a sustainable manner.”
Bishakha Bhanja of Water Aid India said women have been the silent protectors of forests but unfortunately their efforts go unrecognised.
She said, “It can go a long way to identify and recognise the women conservationist from the communities to ensure that their examples are emulated by others.”
WIO convenor Ranjan Panda said: “India’s indigenous communities have proven that they are the best protectors of natural forests.
And it is now time for us to take initiatives to transfer that knowledge to new generation and develop their interest in conservation.”
“The young and educated mass is increasingly concerned about negative impacts of climate change. We can cash in on their concern and motivate them towards promoting engagement of indigenous communities in protecting natural forests and rivers which is vital for combating climate change,” he said.
Panda said that “environmentalism has unfortunately been limited to planting trees”.
“We have to break it. While it is important to plant trees, it is more important to protect natural forests and water resources.
The new generation should be taught about the multiple functions and values of ecologically suitable local species,” he said.
“A campaign ‘Youth for Water’ has been initiated through which thousands of youth will be mobilised in coming months to contribute their share of efforts on water and river conservation,” Panda said in a press release.
Executive director of Vasundhara Manas Ranjan Mishra said, “Young people need to be more vocal and understand real issues related to conservation of natural resources.”
He called upon the youth to raise their voices and extend their reach through social media etc. to convey the conservation message.