People's action in West Bengal have been commended in the form of the J Paul Getty conservation prize to the forest Protection Committees (PFCs) of the state by the World Wide Fund for Nature, "in recognition of their efforts to ensure community-based conservation through sustainable management". At a ceremony in Delhi on March 14 this year, Banamali Roy, the state's minister for environment and forests, received a citation and a $50,000 cheque on behalf of the FPCs from Claude Martin, director general of WWF International. The FPCs share the prize with the Committees for the Defence and Development of the Flora and Fauna of the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras. The prize went to collectives because of a gradual change in the WWF's criteria for selecting awardees from individuals to people's organisations.
The forest protection project started at Arabari in the Midnapore district of West Bengal, where 1270 ha of degraded sal forests were taken up for revival in 1971-72. The movement has now blossomed into 2,243 FPCs spread over almost 4 lakh ha. As Kamal Nath, minister of state for environment and forests, aptly summarised at the prize-giving ceremony, "Joint participatory management was once thought impossible, but now (its viability) has been adequately demonstrated."
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