The initiative of a group of men has created a lush forest in 15 years in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. They have managed to plant more than 1.4M saplings without any significant support from the administration despite devoting their lives to the reforestation of such a vast area.
Their initiative has led to many youngsters who were inspired enough to come forward. Prinson Daimari is one of the 35 heroes and he is delighted each time he goes into the lush forests of Bhairabkunda in the Udalgiri district in Assam.
He recalled the early days when he along with his colleagues began their reforestation drive, shoveling the bare earth and clearing the stones and boulders. Slowly they transformed the sandy barren stretch of land into the fertile and verdant forest that it is today.
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The forest is spread over 1850 acres (750 hectares) and is biodiverse with even elephants and other large animals frequenting the forest.
Prinson spent the best years of their lives in reforestation of the rocky, barren land into a lush forest teeming with wildlife. The first steps of their long journey began in the 1980s when these 35 members of the All Bodo Students Union, set up in 1967 for a Bodo state, got together with a common objective.
The Bodo community is a distinct linguistic and ethnic community concentrated in the Kokrajhar and Udalguri districts of Assam. The agitation was resolved after an agreement with the Assam government in 1993. It ended the decades-long ethnic conflict in 1987.
The Reforestation Drive Gave The Group A Purpose
These 35 members of the ABSU returned home intending to earn a livelihood. Slowly they turned to the nearby area to try their hand at farming, poultry, and fishing. But without a knowledge of the process and the markets, it was tough to succeed in their quest. No help was forthcoming from the administration.
A chance meeting with a forest ranger in 2004 changed their lives. They were encouraged to go in for a reforestation project by planting saplings for 5 years. The project covering 750 acres started a year later in 2005. They walked 7 to 8 kilometers each day to just reach the marked area to clear the land and plant the saplings.
They worked the whole day starting with a measly $0.79 (Rs.56) every day. They ended up working 8 to 9 hours each day but at least they were assured of a steady income.
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They have succeeded in planting over 1.4M trees which have grown into a lush dense forest. Elephants and other wild animals regularly come in from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan, a bordering country.
The forest department has decided to boost tourism in the region, heeding the pleas of the Joint Forest Management Committee formed by the group in 2016. Their initiative has encouraged other groups to go in for reforestation drives in their area.
All image credits: Gurvinder Singh