Mainpur, Chhattisgarh, March 23, 2018: In celebration of the International Day of Forests on March 21 – mandated by the United Nations as a day to raise awareness about the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us – Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), in partnership with the Chattisgarh Forest Department and with support from Oracle, organised a sensitisation programme at Mainpur near Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary.
The highlight of the event was a nukkad natak (street play) performance by a local theatre group. Local artistes, some attired in wild animal costumes, used poems in the regional dialect to voice concerns about the degradation and fragmentation of forests, and emphasise how it was incumbent upon people to protect wildlife and wild habitats. With the wild buffalo and the hill myna (the state animal and bird of Chhattisgarh) as its protagonists, the play also highlighted how every animal plays a vital role in helping forests to flourish.
“It is important that we speak the language of the local people when we are trying to make them a part of a wider forest management and protection team”, said Dr Rajendra Mishra, Head of WTI’s Central India Wild Buffalo Recovery Project. “A nukkad natak is a great way to connect with the community, especially the younger generation.”
Local artistes, some attired in wild animal costumes, used poems in the regional dialect to voice concerns about the degradation of forests
The Chief Guest at the event was Mrs Lokeshwari Netam, President, Gariaband District Forest Protection Committee & Member Jila Janpad. Other dignitaries including Mr Vivekananda Reddy, the Deputy Director of Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve (USTR), representatives of the Zila Panchayat and Tehsil Panchayat, journalists, forest officers, the village heads of various panchayats, the Principal of Mainpur College etc were also in attendance. The event began with the traditional lamp lighting ceremony followed by a short introductory address by Dr Rajendra Mishra. The main event, the nukkad natak, was followed by a felicitation and prize distribution ceremony for frontline forest staff, wild buffalo trackers, members of the Van Suraksha Samitis (Forest Protection Committees), and the local designers of the Improved Cook Stove (ICS) units that WTI provides to local communities under its project. The event ended with a speech by the Chief Guest.
As part of the prize distribution, six selected trackers were each presented with a certificate, a length of traditional cotton cloth and a water bottle. Seven members of the USTR forest staff were each given a certificate, cotton cloth and a wristwatch. The President and members of the four Forest Protection Committees were felicitated with a local musical instrument (dafli), along with the cotton cloth and certificate. Finally, five selected villagers responsible for making and installing ICS units were each given a kitchen set (for the ladies) and a water bottle (for the men), along with a certificate and cotton cloth.
WTI and the Chhattisgarh Forest Department, supported by Oracle, have been working in the USTR landscape for the protection and recovery of the critically depleted central Indian population of the wild buffalo. WTI has also been working with local communities, the primary stakeholders in the landscape, to lower their dependence on forest resources through various direct and indirect initiatives. The nukkad natak organised on International Forests Day was a component of an ongoing statewide campaign to raise awareness about the wild buffalo and the importance of its conservation.