The Saha Astitva Foundation works towards the harmonious integration of forests, fields and people, providing grassroots solutions to global challenges.
When we came to the barren piece of land in 2009, we noticed that the adjoining forest was degraded. We noticed that lots of trees are coppiced in an uncontrolled manner, regular annual fires and unregulated livestock grazing was all having an impact on the destruction of the forest.
We saw that many of the local tribal population are dependent on the forest for their own firewood needs and many cut the forest and sell in the local villages for their daily income. When we asked them about the future of the forest, they said they knew it was diminishing, but they didn’t know what to do about it.
What is the forest worth?
The forest is majorly important, a watershed which acts like a huge sponge in the monsoon, allowing aquifers to be recharged and soil erosion to be averted. Then it acts like the lungs of the planet taking on carbon dioxide and providing oxygen for us to breathe. Trees add to soil fertility and provide habitats to the fauna that lives there. The forest is full of medicinal plants, but many of the original trees have been cut. There is no planning by the local villagers as how to safguard the forest so it continues to sustain them.
During a visit to Almora in Kumaon, the Himalayas, one of our volunteers found this useful signboard explaining the networth on just one 50 year old tree. We assume it takes the figures over a 50 year period
According to these figures, this means that a 50 year old tree gives over Rs 10,000 per year worth of oxygen, over Rs 12,000 each to soil fertility and erosion control, provides air cleaning of around Rs 20,000 per year and provides animal habitats worth Rs 11,000 per year. The annual networth of such a tree then is over Rs 60,000 per year. Try inventing a machine that would perform all of these functions for the cost of a sapling and a few years fencing and care!
“The annual networth of a 50 year old tree is Rs 60,000 per year, that’s Rs 268 lakhs per acre per year!”
With around 400 trees per acre, one acre of forest provides an economical value to society of Rs 268 lakhs per year.
What the Saha Astitva Foundation is doing about it
We have now studied the forest and observed it is about 50% degraded from the original biodiversity. The Thane District Forest Department has proactively agreed to work with us and the community to create a protected area of 225 acres of the adjoining forest.
They are also working with us to promote a model of social forestry to rehabilitate the degraded environment and spearheading a campaign to make a protected ecological sensitive corridor (the green zone)between Dahanu and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
This will form a triparthite agreement and we are currently seeking a sponsor to join us in protecting the forest on this holy mountain, safeguarding water resources and valuable trees for years to come. This could form part of a companies corporate and social responsibility (CSR) programme.
We are seeking a specially skilled community educator to come and participate in the engagement of the community. Please see our latest job vacancies.