My Jungle: Conserving Private Forests Along The Konkan Coast
Photo: Sumaira Abdulali/Public Domain.
With the launch of an ambitious new project that aims to conserve the native flora and fauna of the Konkan region, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) branches out from its campaigning and data collection roots to direct habitat protection.
The My Jungle project will catalyze communities to preserve and manage patches of forest across the Konkan region, and a pilot site has been identified in a village near Chiplun, Maharashtra. To purchase these 57 acres of land, SNM is seeking not just donations but also zero-interest loans that will be repaid after at least a year.
Vishwas (or Bhau)Katdare, President of SNM, explains to Cara Tejpal why protecting wildernesses is not the sole responsibility of the government.
Why do you feel that private forests are important to conservation? Are government-notified Protected Areas (PAs) not enough?
Government notified PAs are certainly not enough. Ideally, area under forest cover should be 33 per cent of the total geographic area. This is as per the national policy and directives. However, the existing forest cover at national and Maharashtra state level is far below this expectation. As per the Forest Survey of India’s 2013 estimate, the forest cover at the national level is 21 per cent and in Maharashtra it is 16 per cent of the respective total geographical areas. Therefore, we need to protect and conserve forests by all possible means – notified PAs, Sacred Groves, private forests and more. In this context, our effort is important.
In our view, all citizens should contribute to forest conservation and protection efforts. It should not be the sole responsibility of the government. Maintaining satisfactory forest cover in the country is a gigantic task. My Jungle is the collective effort of like-minded citizens to biodiversity conservation in the best possible way.
How has the response to the crowd funding campaign to purchase land for your pilot site been?
There has been a mixed response. In our experience, networking through personal contacts is very important. For example, a group of amateur marathon runners helped us fund raise by conducting a novel initiative called ‘Mera Terah Run’. This initiative generated around 7-8 per cent of the purchase cost of the land. Unfortunately, response to the online crowd-funding campaign has been slow. We have registered the project at Global Giving, a reputed crowd-funding portal.
How did you identify the land for the pilot site and what are some of its key features?
We had been on the lookout for the past four or five years. There were a couple of satisfactory proposals, and Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra carried out rapid biodiversity assessments at these sites. However, due to logistical reasons these proposals did not materialize. The present proposal was brought to us by an acquaintance. The land is located on the western fringes of the Western Ghats and is not suitable for cultivation. The predominant vegetation is moist deciduous forest, and there are a few perennial streams that have semi evergreen vegetation along their course. SNM will conduct a detailed bio-diversity survey once the land has been bought.
What are the first steps you will take once it has been purchased?
The first step is the detailed biodiversity survey. Then SNM plans to allow natural regeneration on 90 per cent of the land, which means there will be no human interventions. On the remaining 10 per cent of the land, initiatives like regeneration monitoring, Non-timber Forest Produce (NTFP) studies, and ecotourism will be conducted.
And how do you plan to expand the 'My Jungle' concept across the Konkan region?
My Jungle is relevant to the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts in the Konkan region. Private forests in these two districts far exceed the land owned by the forest department. They are facing unprecedented destruction of forest cover. The timber mafia is felling trees at an astonishing pace. If this situation prevails, the days of complete deforestation are not far away. SNM plans to conduct intensive awareness generation among the private forest owners in the region with an appeal to participate in conservation initiatives. Interested individuals and groups will be assisted in planning the long-term protection of their land and also establishing nature-friendly income generation initiatives like the successful turtle festival in Velas.
For more details on My Jungle and to contribute to the purchase of the pilot site, write to Bhau Katdare at