In a bid to reach out to the new generation of children and sensitise them to the imperatives of forests, environment and wildlife conservation, the Forest Department will launch Bandipur Yuva Mitra in the new year.
Bandipur Yuva Mitra aims to expose school children from villages abutting the famous tiger reserve to various issues related to forests, take them on safari rides, conduct workshops and induct them as eco-volunteers.
Bandipur Yuva Mitra will be launched by Union Minister for Environment Forests and Climate Change Bhupendra Yadav during his two-day stay in Bandipur on January 2-3, 2023. The Minister is also expected to participate in a meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), said Ramesh Kumar, Director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR).
This is the first such exercise in India wherein the outreach programme will be in vogue throughout the year and plans to sensitise students on such a large scale.
‘’There are nearly 140 villages around Bandipur. About 10,000 school children will be covered under the programme every year’’, said Mr. Ramesh Kumar. Once the students come to the forest and participate in the programmes, they will be issued a card and inducted as eco-volunteers. The programme will initially run for 3 years.
Mr. Ramesh Kumar said the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was impressed by the concept and was keen to sponsor the project, but for now, the Forest Department will implement it with government funding.
This will not only strengthen the students’ involvement in environment and forest conservation, but society can expect a new generation of conservationists emerging from this pool, Mr. Ramesh Kumar said.
The authorities are confident that the concept will be successful as children living in villages abutting the forests can relate to environmental issues. This will vest them with a sense of ownership of the forest and make them stakeholders, according to Mr. Ramesh Kumar.
Two new vehicles have been procured for the project with funding from the Chamarajanagar district administration for deployment on the safari tours.
The Union Minister will also inaugurate a kiosk displaying and selling handicraft items made by forest dwelling communities using lantana. Bandipur has been overrun by weeds, like lantana, that will degrade the habitat over time. Hence, authorities are trying to extract lantana physically and use it as raw material for manufacture of handicraft items so as to economically empower tribal communities.
A booklet and information brochure about the forest, complete with details of the flora and fauna of Bandipur, will also be released to mark the occasion.