Wherever one goes in Dediapada and its surrounding villages, almost always there is a conversation going on about the rampant decrease in its forest area. In order to get an overall idea about the immensity of the situation, we went to various areas of Dediapada and its villages to talk to the locals. A hint of helplessness surfaces as soon as this topic comes up. With a faint smile the villagers talk about their lost jungles, the smile that is rooted in despair. It comes as a surprise that each local we talked to informed us that the jungle began right next to his/her household area. The area is punctuated by hills that are visible from almost any point; one couldn’t see these hills 2 decades ago, the dense jungles blocked everything in view. It was a time when each resident had witnessed the richness of Dediapada’s wildlife. They say that 20 years back human settlements were in the jungle whereas now the jungle is in the human settlements.

Forests are the initiating link to the survival cycle (food chain) of all beings. Forests and abundant rain are inseparable. Not more than a decade ago Dediapada received nonstop rain for two months every year, about 15 years ago this period was 3 months and about 2 decades back, they say, it rained for 4 months continuously, day and night. Today the area hardly gets a week of rainfall. A leisure walk by the roads during monsoon exhibits serene brooks in this area, but they go dry once the monsoon is gone. A few years back this brooks never dried out, they sang their pebbly tunes round the year. The summer heat experienced by city dwellers is making its way to this region as well. While earlier the jungles took away all the harmful heat and provided coolness, with no more jungles Dediapada along with the surrounding cities are being engulfed by scorching heat every passing year.

How is it that this bounty that spread across kilometers is decreased to nothing over a couple of years? Many say that one of the major reasons is that the locals clear away the jungle to create farm lands. Others say that it is the politicians exploiting there power to chop off the woods for personal benefits, while some claim that it is the industries that do major harm. Whatever the cause, the outcome is devastating. More than 80% of Dediapada’s forests are no more; the remnants of its extravagant density are getting thinner by the hour.

Unfortunately such disastrous news doesn’t make it to the cities. This lack of awareness further boosts the destruction. The local people, the Adivadis, have their identity rooted in jungles; the term ‘Adivasi’ brings jungles to one’s mind. Jungle is their nurturer, they cannot be without it. They are helpless and can do nothing about this drastic change. Far from the concept of greed, the Adivasis made use of the jungles’ generosity for their personal needs. Unaware of the market value of teak, the Adivasis used to utilize it as fuel wood! All of their health and medical needs were provided by the jungle, they didn’t need hospitals. They lived with bare minimum and in the moment without interference in others’ business; this, perhaps, has led to the jungles being stripped away from them. The government introduces many schemes that the Adivasis could benefit from, but living the simple and isolated lifestyle these schemes rarely are heard of in these areas.

Jeevantirth has taken a small step towards overcoming these losses. Despite many trials by various institutions at educating the adults, it seems to make no difference. In 2014, we initiated our program ‘Harit Sena’, meaning Green Army. As per this program we spread environment awareness amongst the children with a hope of a bright future. We have chosen 20 municipal schools of Dediapada taluka to work with; each school is visited at least twice a month during which 2 hours sessions are held to educate the children about nature. We include students of 1st to 5th grade. Children learn about forests, farms, rivers and their gifts to human kind through stories, pictures, songs and activities. To get them excited about these teachings we plan jungle, farm and river visits wherein they are explained ways of the jungle, farming and relevant topics. The most efficient facet of Harit Sena is introduction of 3 kinds of gardens in each school: Kitchen Garden, Aaushadhi Baug (Medicinal Garden) and Flowers Garden. Kitchen Garden contains plants that produce edible fruits and vegetables, Aaushadhi Baug contains plants and herbs that have medicinal properties while Flowers Garden contains plants that are visually pleasing. Students take responsibility of five plants each which they plant and nurture in these gardens. This activity has increased children’s knowledge about plants and their properties. It has taught the children about plantation process and cultivation of trees and plants. They have developed a sense of gratitude and responsibility towards trees, plants and farmers.

Awareness is the key to saving the jungles. These forests do not need any assistance from humans; for ages they have proliferated on their own accord. Only if we let the jungles be, they would regain their past glory. Reduction in jungles has resulted into erratic seasons; this cycles would regain its normality with increase in wilderness. Wild animals, having no more jungles, inevitably find themselves in human habitats. Ecosystems developed over thousands of years lose their base, resulting in extinction of innumerable animals, birds, insects, reptiles, trees and plants species. The huge number of modern day industries could do no harm to Earth’s atmosphere if jungles were in charge.

The fundamental fact of human beings’ survival being dependent on the only source of oxygen seems to be incomprehensible to us.

How can the reader help?

In order to overcome damage of such a proportion, it is vital that we unite and work as a community. So as to make the responsible officials realize the damage, we must rise together. You could give us your contact details so we can get in touch with you when we organize meetings or other relevant activities.

You can help by providing us with saplings; planting trees wherever you find barren land, be it your home, your farms or by the road.

Decrease the use of paper and environment damaging materials.