Raising the slogan ‘Conserve water by protecting forests,’ an awareness campaign to sensitise the public to the dangers of forest fire began in villages adjacent to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) on Saturday.
Inaugurating the programme, Chief Secretary S.M. Vijayanand said the Forest Department was standing not only to conserve forests and wildlife but also to preserve water.
Earlier, the department had been considered as a statutory one, but in the current times, it was considered as a department for development, Mr. Vijayanand said.
The government had been spending nearlyRs. 100 crore every year in the district for development works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. If the amount was channelised for conservation of soil and water, it would help mitigate the drought-like situation in the hill district, he said.
The programme is being organised by the Forest and Wildlife Department, in association with the Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti, and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an NGO.
‘The two-day programme is envisaged to sensitise the villagers, including tribesmen, living on the fringes of the sanctuary to the significance of conserving forests and the impact of forest fire,’ P. Dhaneshkumar, Warden, WWS, said. He said natural forest fires were rare now and several such incidents were man-made.
Forest officials alone could not control such a disaster without the help of villagers. Students could effectively convey the message to prevent man-made forest fires, he added.
Close to 600 people, including members of National Service Scheme and nature clubs in schools and colleges, environmental enthusiasts, and Forest Department personnel, are participating in the campaign.
They visited around 14,000 houses of 86 hamlets on the fringes of the three forest ranges of the sanctuary and distributed pamphlets to the villagers on the first day. They would visit houses in 40 hamlets on the fringes of the Tholpetty forest range on Sunday, Arul Badusha, coordinator of the programme, said.