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Saturday, Mar 16, 2002

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NGOs take up wasteland regeneration

J. Nanda Gopal


THE efforts of Ananta Paryavarana Parirakshana Samiti to regenerate the denuded and degraded revenue forest lands in Anatapur district by educating people and enlisting their cooperation have started yielding results. In common revenue lands, there is now increased greenery and availability of fodder. There is greater awareness among the people of the need for conserving land, water and vegetation.

In the last decade, the forest cover has gone up to 10.29 per cent. The forest cover two decades ago was a mere 6 per cent as against the ideal 33.3 per cent and the annual rainfall 520 mm, the lowest in Andhra Pradesh.

Siberian storks used to visit the district decades ago but they stopped doing so due to lack of natural habitat. Now they have started returning and in the last season about 1,000 birds had visited the district, the APPS Secretary, Mr T. Balaram, said.

Commercial crops such as custard apple, ber, soapnut, beedi leaf, leaf plates, gum, green leaf, thatched grass, firewood and honey are being raised in the erstwhile wastelands and they have become a source of income to the resource poor.

APPS had formed village-level committees to take its mission further. The district administration had decided to promote the concept in the entire area under its jurisdiction as a policy.

A decade ago, some NGOs took the initiative to green the area which was fasting getting dersertified. A dozen of them formed a network under the banner, Ananta Paryavarana Parirakshana Samiti. The APPS has taken up the task in 50,000 acres spread over 125 villages by adopting low-cost methods such as protecting and developing the existing resources, according to Mr S. Kullayya Swamy, convenor of APPS.

Mr Swamy told Business Line the regenerated forest land had had a multiplier effect on local environment and the economy by improving water harvesting methods, crop-productivity and pest control. There is also a steep increase in the goat and sheep population.

He said that illegal mining of sand from Chitravati and Pennar rivers by private parties needed to be stopped. Now that Dalits had developed the fallow revenue lands and were making a living out of it, he wanted the Government to give them pattas to endorse their right to livelihood through that means. APPS wanted to share its experience with the NGOs of Telangana area and bring about similar improvements there on a sustained basis, he said. Realising the genuineness of the goal and the sincerity of those involved in the process, Oxfam (India) has proffered a helping hand. APPS has also involved women, the SCs and STs in their efforts to check forest fires and illicit felling of trees and also to raise fruit-bearing trees on a commercial scale.

To check encroachments, APPS had, with the help of Government authorities, brought the area of their work under the protected list. Eco-clubs were formed at different villages involving schoolchildren to spread the importance of protecting trees and keeping the environs clean.

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