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A forest returns

A forest returns

Author: Rohit Parihar
Publication: India Today
Date: September 1, 2008
URL: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=68&id=13559&Itemid=1&sectionid=24

Introduction: Revival of the Tal Chapar sanctuary and its endangered wildlife spells development for the Chiru district in Rajasthan.

The grasslands had long since ceased to exist. As the black bucks remaining in the Tal Chapar sanctuary in Churu district of Rajasthan-around 1,800-struggled for fodder on this barren land, they were also endangered as they ran the risk of being run over by passing vehicles or being attacked by stray dogs.

The sanctuary, however, makes for a turnaround environmental story. It all began two years ago, when Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje made an aerial visit over Tal Chapar and, upon seeing its disastrous state, asked Forest Department officials to restore its once-pristine glory.

Rainwater conservation, besides efforts to fence the sanctuary and dig trenches, has not only made it a safer habitat for the black bucks but has transformed it into a lush green 8-sq km belt.

As much as half of the 500 quintal of fodder required for the black bucks has been restored, with the plantation of 2,800 trees. Within a short span of time, the drive has brought about a dramatic rise in the black buck population-now 2,500.

Everyday, around 15 new fawns can be spotted in the dense breeding grounds of the sanctuary, which is also home to the chinkara, blue bull, cobra, jackal, desert fox and a variety of lizards and birds, including the demoiselle crane, babbler, kingfisher and the egret.

With the arrival of this year's first monsoon after the rainwater harvesting, forest officials hope more migratory birds will take abode here. Plans are also afoot to turn the dry village of Jaswantgarh into another green belt to accommodate the rising black buck population.

The revival of Tal Chapar has also spelt a new life for its residents. The forest officials with help from entrepreneurs like Bibi Russel, a Bangladeshi textile and handicraft designer, are now successfully providing a livelihood for the village women.

Around 80 women from the locality are part of a project aimed at capacity building with minimal dependence on the forests. Falling under the Mahila Van Shilp Vikas Samiti (MVSVS), set up in January last year, they are being trained by Russel on how to use local materials to carve pieces of curtain hangings, pen stands and jewellery, which are sold in the cities.

While the returns are modest-around Rs 500 a month in each case-the conditions are improving. "They are getting orders for fast-moving designs," says Pushpa Shekhawat, MVSVS chairperson, adding that a craft centre at the local level will soon be established. With things progressing this way, it is good to see man return to care for nature and its beings once again.

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