Manka Behl,TNN

NAGPUR: The tribals staying in core or buffer areas of reserves are dependent on the forests for their survival and this can hugely disturbed the local ecosystem. Finding an alternative solution for this long-existing quandary, a group of local environmentalists conducted an experiment and gave a new meaning to fish farming methods in tribal areas.

The centre of the experiment was Bori village which is within Melghat Tiger Reserve. The members of Amravati-based NGO Nature Conservation Society released around 25,000 juvenile fish (or fingerlings) in Bori lake during September last year. "We noticed that in summers, the water bodies of the village get dried up after which the villagers move to the core area of the forest for fishing. Due to this, the ecosystem of the forest was disturbed and the villagers' movements in core areas was posing a threat to wildlife. So, we decided to provide the tribals with an alternative arrangement, with which they can make money without disturbing the forest," said executive officer of Nature Conservation Society Kunal Potode.

After four months, the juvenile fish had turned into big fish weighing half kilogram to 0.75 kilogram, a fish farming activity was conducted in the village on December 31st last year in which villagers were given training in effective fishing methods by experts. "In just one day, the villagers caught hold of fish weighing 10 kilograms. We have divided them in self-help groups to continue the activities," said Potode.

The experiment has proved to be a hit among tribals as in the entire month of January, the villagers have gained a profit of more than Rs12,000. "After catching the fish, these villagers sold them in the outside market where they made a good amount of money. This was just the first trial. If the villagers continue doing this, they won't face any problems during summers," said Potode. Stating advantages of this experiment, Potode said that this will ensure that the forest remains undisturbed and at the same time villagers are not left penniless.

"This is the perfect way of ensuring sustainable development as it is providing a livelihood options for villagers as well as ensuring conservation of forests. Also, as villagers will be busy working on this activity, illicit activities like cutting tress and poaching will automatically be reduced," he pointed out. He also added that 25% of the villagers income will be deposited with the Joint Forest Management Committee which is in charge of providing juvenile fish and other fishing equipment to the tribals.

Seeing the success of the experiment, the NGO is also planning to implement it in other areas of Melghat tiger reserve. "Next year, we are planning to replicate the project in Kotha village which is more than two kilometres away from Bori," he added.

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