Two Tamil Nadu Villages protect their natural wealth and prosper

By S V Viswanathan
Published: Saturday 30 September 2000


 Computer classes for the resi (Credit: S V Viswanathan) the Kandamanur Reserve Forest area, in south Tamil Nadu, earmarked as degraded forest, is fast regenerating. Implementation of joint forest management programme in the region has transformed the forest area as well as the life of residents of nearby villages of Kanavaipatti and Pudu Ramachandrapuram.

The two villages have been adopted by the state forest department under the Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project ( tap ). The project itself is being run thanks to a soft loan of Rs 500 crore to the Tamil Nadu government by the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation.

To reduce the pressure on the forest, caused due to grazing and cutting of trees for fuel wood, and simultaneously provide alternative sources of income to the villagers selective residents have been given financial support.

"Shepherds who take their goats for grazing to the forest area, were given interest-free loan of Rs 10,000 each to buy milch cows. A village forest council ( vfc ) was formed to select the villagers eligible for the loan. The first batch of women who availed the loans have started repaying the monthly installments and a second batch has also drawn the loan amount.'' told Sheik Umar, forest ranger at Kandamanur.

Conserving soil and augmenting water resources has had its economic spin off, providing employment opportunities to people.

"Life was a misery till tap was introduced. Now we earn more and lead a better life,'' narrates Guruvammal of Pudu Ramachandrapuram. "We have planted thousands of saplings. We are confident this village will derive large benefits,'' adds Sannasi, president of the vfc of the village.

Check dams have increased the groundwater level. This, in turn, has allowed cultivating paddy for the first time. To prevent soil erosion and provide usufructs some local species of trees, like neem ( Azadirachta incdica) and tamarind ( Tamarindus indicus ), have been grown.

Arrangements have also been made for providing computer education as well as vocational training like tailoring to residents.

Author is a freelance journalist based in Chennai

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