Telangana

Beedi leaf collection ban: Telangana forest department proposes, CM disposes

A tree reduced to ashes in a forest fire in Asifabad forest division in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

A tree reduced to ashes in a forest fire in Asifabad forest division in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.   | Photo Credit: S. Harpal Singh

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The letter from the CMO reveals that the MLA had requested for keeping the beedi leaf collection activity going on in the interest of poor collectors

The Forest Department’s plan to prohibit beedi leaf collection in the Kagaznagar Forest Division in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district in the interest of effective tiger conservation seems to have hit a road block, and how.

None other than the Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao himself acceded to a request by Sirpur MLA Koneru Konappa for continuation of the activity. A letter from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), dated January 6, says the Chief Minister has responded positively to the request and had asked the Forest Department to initiate necessary action for beedi leaf or tendu leaf collection.

To prevent forest fires

The Kagaznagar Forest Division has become one of the most important tiger corridors in the country owing to the high number of tigers crossing over from neighbouring Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and the forest of Alampalli in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. According to an estimate, some 10 big cats are moving in the forest, which is likely to be confirmed by the ongoing tiger census, for whom the surroundings need to be made free of deadly occurrences like forest fires.

“We had planned to suspend beedi leaf collection so as to create a safer environment for the big cats as well as other wild animals,” said KB Asifabad District Forest Officer Laxman Ranjeet Naik. “We wanted to see how the animals fare in the absence of forest fires which generally occur in locations where tendu leaf collection takes place,” he explained his department reasoning.

Economics versus environment

The letter from the CMO reveals that the MLA had requested for keeping the beedi leaf collection activity going on in the interest of poor collectors. Those who collect tendu leaves make small earnings, especially in May.

The number of people who take part in beedi leaf collection in the six units each in Kagaznagar and Asifabad Forest Divisions, however, is too small to risk endangering the environment, according to conservationists. In Kagaznagar, 658 families or 4,882 individuals and in Asifabad 426 families or 2,528 individuals are involved in collection of the leaves.

Caveat to collectors and contractors

The letter in question also mentions Maharashtra-style operations to be implemented this side of the inter-State border. The Telangana State Beedi Leaves and Forest Contractors’ Association has also been pressing for this instead of banning the activity completely.

Among the conditions imposed on tendu leaf collectors and contractors is the responsibility to prevent kindling and spread of forest fires besides creating awareness about it. Contractors are also mandated to provide five fire watchers in each of the units to help the Forest Department. Further, they are liable to pay a fine upto ₹ 50,000 if more than 10 per cent of the unit area is damaged due to a fire.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 8:34:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/forest-department-proposes-telangana-cm-disposes/article30548746.ece

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