Nagpur: In its bid to control forest fire through people support, Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra implemented “Fire Free Pench Programme” during the 2022 fire season. In this, a competition was organised among the villages for their overall efforts in the prevention of the forest fire.
Participation in this required expression of willingness of the villagers through their tharav as a prerequisite.
Programme got an overwhelming response as 37 villages out of total 39 villages present in the buffer area of the PTR participated in this programme.
In all the villages, voluntary patrolling squads were made for the public’s awareness, patrolling the sensitive forest areas and helping the forest department in case of any fire incidence. Total 299 youths were part of such squads and they patrolled 80 times during the span of 3 months of fire season. This programme helped in overall 67% reduction in the total forest area burnt which was 659 ha during 2021 and came down to 218 ha during 2022. F
Furthermore, there was a 52% reduction in the number of fire incidence which was 63 during 2021 and came down to 30 during 2022 and only 3 incidence of fire were adjoined to farm and village areas. Performance of the villages was assessed based upon 10 criteria such as tharav of the villages, number of meetings at village level taking place for execution and coordination, size of the voluntary squads, number of patrolling carried out by squad, number of fire incidences, use of net for the mahua collection, efforts in arresting spread of fire from farms, grazing incidence in forest etc.
A committee consisting of Retd DFO Girish Washishtha, ACF Atul Deokar and Mandar Pingale from the Satpuda Foundation was constituted to assess the overall performance of the villages. In this programme Kolitmara, Surera and Ghat Pendhri villages of the Parshioni Taluka got 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
Sarpanch and EDC president of the respective villages will be given Rs51000, Rs31000 and Rs 21000 respectively. All 3 villages are in the west Pench range which was the place of the maximum number of the fire incidents during 2021 which is a good sign. This programme has helped in creating a support base in villages for the forest protection and will help in further arresting forest fire incidence. PTR has decided to continue this programme in the 2023 fire season also.