‘Mahila Mandals’ in Himachal work to save forests

Women are known as passionate creatures and this extends to activism too.  A group of such women in the valley of Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh have been fighting since the early 1980s to save their forests. Today, 139 groups of women in 27 of the 28 panchayats of the valley are working towards guarding the forests.


This started over 3 decades ago in the panchayat of Kawaring, which is home to 112 people with only 64 women. These women pledged to save the forests and the movement later spread to other parts of the valley located at an elevation ranging from 13,000 to 20,000 feet above the sea level, reported Times of India.


The ‘mahila mandals’ in the region impose fines on people who are caught cutting the trees. The Thirot panchayat, for example, passed a resolution last month that stated that a fine of Rs.5,000 would be imposed on anyone was caught cutting trees and the person will be socially boycotted. According to the report by TOI, octogenarian Dolma, a resident of Thirot, told IANS, “If the forest is saved, we will save the biodiversity. The fencing of the forests, which will be done in summer, will enable the native fauna to flourish.”


Another villager Chokpa said, “During the winter season, we remain alert as poachers are active. In summer, we will set out in batches to the nearby forests to guard it voluntarily,” adding that all the villagers have together taken a pledge to save the forests. These women activists are rewarded yearly by the forest department with cash prizes.


Their efforts have borne fruit. “A few years ago the demand for firewood at our Udaipur depot was around 4,000 quintals during winter. Now it’s over 7,000 quintals. This shows that the locals are now banking more upon government supplied wood than on forests,” said an official.


ORIGINAL SOURCE: Times of India.


[Feature Picture Courtesy: Vishwa Gujarat]