The 225acre portion of forest proposed for protection comprises a small watershed and includes mostly sloping land around it, as well a very few flat pieces cleared for cultivation. The forest is typical moist deciduous teak-bearing forest and is now in a semi degraded condition.
Most of the larger trees have been cut down for timber and many are being ring barked every year. Some of the remaining trees have had their side branches repeatedly lopped for fodder and for construction. Constant cutting has left many stumps which coppice profusely in monsoon. A major cart track runs through the area and there are many well-used foot paths. Loss of timber means loss of wildcraft livelihoods.
The pressures on this part of the forest have increased in the last 10 years due to the ever-expanding brick kilns.
Top soil is now being extracted from the area and removed by bullock cart and by tractor, which gain access via the cart tracks. This leads to serious erosion during the rains which further hampers natural regeneration.
Annual fires in the dry season take their toll by weakening existing trees, killing any young seedlings and clearing the ground of any humus or leaf litter. The local people also sweep up dry forest leaves and take them away in large baskets for burning on their rice fields.
Cattle graze freely throughout the forest, trampling any young seedlings and compacting the soil. Large herds of goats are brought regularly for grazing.
During a study of the Tansa valley forests undertaken 10 years ago, these forests (excepting the teak plantations ) still retained a good level of biodiversity. As long as there was still sufficient vegetation cover to prevent serious erosion, some regeneration was still taking place in the scrub forests . The present level of wood extraction, fires and soil removal means that the forest is now at the point where desertification is likely to set in.
The most widespread and common species of the Tansa valley are, broadly speaking, those which can withstand extreme conditions, are fairly tolerant of heat and fire, and coppice easily. Others are those which germinate quickly and grow fast and have their seeds dispersed by wind and by birds. Species which require a more protected micro-climate, and those which are seriously affected by cutting, are those which will die out more quickly in the region as a whole. Even the hardy ‘kandol’ (Sterculia urens), which thrives in dry rocky locations, is locally under threat because of unregulated gum extraction causing the death of mature trees. Two other drought-tolerant hardy trees – sissam and nana (Dalbergia latifolia and Lagerstroemia lanceolata) – have been overexploited because of their useful timber.
We are currently seeking the participation of a sponsor as the third party in a triparthite agreement with the Saha Astitva Foundation and the Thane District Forest Department of Maharashtra, India.
The agreement requires a commitment to restore and protect a rapidly decreasing forest resource base which currently protects and replenishes the water table. The agreement is for 225 acres, with the potential to extend to 20 square km (5000 acres) after an initial 3-5 year trial period.
Protecting the forest requires the co-operation of the local community, the Government and local industries which rely on the local resources such as water.
In addition to replanting and protecting the forest and creating water catchments along seasonal streams, the causal issues that resulted in the forests degeneration will be addressed, offering a holistic approach and potential model across India and the World.
The project will take a multi-dimensional approach and will include:
- innovative ways for livelihood creation such as low-cost organic agri-based and craft-based industries through the formation of women’s groups,
- finding alternatives to, and managing, firewood usage and livestock grazing.
- environmental education at school and adult level to create the long-term sustainable protection of this natural resource base.
- social support to assist the community in new ways to utilize their land and give access to services and benefits that exist for them.
- research and publication of reports and academic studies to disseminate the results and encourage replicability in other regions of India and the world
please contact us for more information