Jamshedpur, June 18: Saranda forests, home to Asia’s largest reserve of the Shorea robusta, has in recent times seen everything from ministers to CRPF men, from gelatine sticks to specialised choppers, from rebel offensive to tiger pug marks. Today, it saw something far less dramatic, but what probably is its most significant journey to green revival.
A professional team under the Centre-sponsored Saranda Action Plan — a five-year, Rs 54-crore scheme covering 56 villages in Saranda — ventured to the jungles today to start entry-point activities for its ambitious watershed project in West Singhbhum.
Among the seven who joined today — six more will turn up within this week — were project coordinator Ramesh Prasad, as well as an agriculture engineer, two software engineers, an animal husbandry expert and two socio-economic managers.
In Saranda, watershed management must quench large swathes of greenery and human habitation, needing specialised intervention.
The 13-member team will work on the watershed project for the full five-year term.
Funds are not a problem. “Of the Rs 54 crore earmarked for the Saranda Action Plan, which we will get in phases, we have received around 20 per cent,” said K.K. Tiwary, Saranda DFO.
Armed with laptops, micro-maps, glucose packets and mineral water, the team started a thorough round of the 850sqkm area, which has been divided into six zones for easy outreach and monitoring, to plan activities such as digging check dams and recharging old ponds. In these few days, the team will scout for existing water bodies such as wells, ponds and check-dams that need attention and repair. They will also draw villagers — made numb by poverty and rebel fear — into conversation on income-generating work they can do, such as raising goats or poultry for instance.
These getting-to-know activities will last for a fortnight. Then, the team will take six months to prepare a detailed project report on the kind of activities that are needed, possible and sustainable in the forest area. Copies of the report — with detailed recommendations — will be sent to the Centre and the state.
The actual intensive watershed activities — from rainwater harvesting to contouring hilly terrains to avoid run-off to recharging rivers and ponds and creating check dams and canals — will start once the report gets feedback from government authorities.
“I find it quite exciting to be in Saranda to work for the central government-sponsored watershed project. My only intention is to complete the tasks within time,” said project coordinator Prasad, who set out for Manoharpur after reporting at the Saranda divisional forest office in Chaibasa today.
Agriculture engineer Kshitij Narayan Jha was equally upbeat. “No place is a constraint. I am equally at home in a metro and a jungle,” said Jha, who hails from Bihar.
Saranda DFO Tiwary said they had handpicked a committed team. “We had invited candidates for walk-in interviews for 16 posts. So far, we have selected 13 persons. We are yet to get candidates for three vacant posts that include forestry and livestock management experts. We will issue a fresh advertisement within a month,” he told The Telegraph.
Tiwary said that entry-point activities went beyond feel-good ones.
“The professionals have to get to know the place like the back of their hand. They have to strike a rapport with villagers. They have to break barriers of timidity and suspicion. As far as ecological understanding goes, they obviously have to be very sure of what the area needs. A five-year water management scheme has the potential for a complete overhaul,” he said.